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Invitational brings top competition to Warren

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Belles prepare to host the third annual O’Brien National Invitational tournament this weekend, which welcomes the top nine teams in Division III golf.

Saint Mary’s (0-1) may have to slightly adjust its expectations for the tournament, though, with an undersized roster that lacks several players who are studying overseas for the semester.

“We want to win, of course, but I don’t think we are going to be really disappointed if we don’t,” senior captain Natalie Matuszak said. “We want to do well, and I think we are taking this more as a learning experience for the younger girls who haven’t been in the top five before, because most of the team hasn’t.”

Coming off a defeat in their first match of the fall season, the Belles are hoping to use the Invitational as an early season chance to improve. The tournament will also give Saint Mary’s a chance to see some of the top teams in the country and to evaluate its own team in comparison, Matuszak said.

“It’s a really good preview to what the teams are going to be like this year and what they are going to be like in the spring because everyone who comes to this tournament will most likely be at Nationals also, and most likely, they are going to be the top teams at Nationals,” she said. “It kind of gives us a good preview of what we need to work on and what we need to do in order to hopefully beat these teams in the spring.”

Although the National tournament is not until May, the Belles have already set their sights on making their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and improving upon last year’s fourth place finish. Methodist University, last year’s NCAA champion for Division III, will be among the participants at this year’s O’Brien Invitational after winning the first two installments of the yearly contest.

For the less experienced members of the Saint Mary’s team, this tournament can be a first taste of the highest level of competition in Division III.

“I think it’s a really good learning experience for some of the younger girls on the team,” Matuszak said. “They are going to get to see what it’s like to play with the better teams and they get a little taste of what it’s like to be in a nationals setting with the caliber of teams that are going to be there.”

The Belles, however, have the advantage of hosting the tournament. Matuszak said the tournament brings all the benefits of a large contest without all the hassles of travelling.

“The O’Brien tournament, with it being in town, that’s really nice to not have to travel to go to a good tournament,” she said.

But the role of host can also be a disadvantage for the Belles.

“I think that since it’s such a big tournament and there are such good teams that are going to be there, being the host puts a little bit more pressure on us to do well,” Matuszak said.

Teams will begin teeing off at 1 p.m. Sunday with play continuing at 8 a.m. Monday at the Warren Golf Course.

Contact Joseph Monardo at