Belles chase top-four spot, chance at NCAA tourney
Benjamin Horvath | Wednesday, October 8, 2014
The Belles look to secure a top-four slot in the final rounds of the MIAA End of Season Jamboree this weekend.
Friday’s and Saturday’s rounds will be played at the Medalist Golf Club in Marshall, Michigan and mark the conclusion of the three-weekend, six-round event.
If the Belles finish within the top four of this tournament, they will qualify for the MIAA’s four-team event in the spring. The winner of that event earns a qualification into the NCAA Championship.
Saint Mary’s currently ranks third out of nine teams, trailing second-place Olivet by just nine strokes and first-place Hope by 57 strokes.
Saint Mary’s coach Kimberly Moore said earning a bid to the NCAA Championship this upcoming spring would be great for the program, but she remains focused on securing a top-four slot in the conference tournament first.
“Our ultimate goal is to win championships, but we have to take it one step at a time,” Moore said. “Hopefully we can get into that one or two spot of this tournament, and this would be a great way to get us prepared for the NCAA season in the spring.”
The Belles would earn the privilege to host the NCAA qualifying event this upcoming season if they finish in the top-two of the MIAA tournament.
Moore said she emphasized the importance of the short game to her players because this is the area that will reduce the most strokes from overall scores.
“We’re always looking to improve upon our short game and make more putts,” Moore said. “That’s key for us, if we can get up-and-down on a more consistent basis, then we can definitely lower some scores so that’s been our biggest focus.”
Teams choose five players to participate in each round, and Moore said she picks her top five based on how players have performed during the week.
“It all comes down to qualifying and who’s playing the best at the time,” Moore said. “That’s how I determine who will participate in the weekend’s event.”
Despite a degree of uncertainty in the five-player rotation, Moore said she suspects a similar group of players to qualify for this weekend’s event.
Belles sophomore Courtney Carlson and senior Janice Heffernan, who has won the MIAA conference player of the week twice this year, have led the team during the conference tournament, averaging 85.3 and 81 strokes, respectively.
“The last couple spots are usually up for grabs the majority of the time, but it seems like this weekend would be a consistent five that we’ve had play a lot this year,” Moore said.
Saint Mary’s will tee off on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m., and then Saturday morning at 10 a.m. The event will be hosted by Olivet at Medalist Golf Club in Marshall, Michigan.