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SMC Golf: Belles poised for national title run

Luke Mansour | Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coming off yet another successful season that saw the program earn its second consecutive MIAA conference title, No. 5 Saint Mary’s seems poised to earn a top-five finish in the NCAA Division III Championships.

Saint Mary’s earned its second straight automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday thanks to a huge second day at the MIAA qualifier. Trailing conference rival Olivet University by five strokes, the Belles tore up Blackthorn Golf Course in South Bend and ended the day leading by 28 strokes.

“I believe our team has the potential to be the best in the country if we work hard and perform to the best of our abilities,” sophomore Natalie Matuszak said. “However, I think it’s an honor and a great achievement in itself that we made it to the tournament.”

The Belles’ road to the NCAAs certainly had some ups and downs, as the team felt they could have played better in a few tournaments during the season.

“I think there were a couple of tournaments we would have liked to have played better, but overall we had a great season,” Matuszak said. “We pulled together as a team and continued to prove that we are a strong team all the way through the lineup.”

Some of the top players on the Belles included Matuszak and juniors Mary Kate Boyce and Rosie O’Connor. All three were mainstays in the top three positions in Belles coach Mark Hamilton’s lineup throughout the season.

With many experienced players on Saint Mary’s roster, the team expects a big finish to its season down in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. The NCAA Tournament consists of four separate rounds, and the Belles will need to be sure to retain their focus throughout the long and arduous competition.

“I’d say this year has definitely been a success,” Hamilton said. “We lost two number one players along the way, so there was a bit of adversity, but you would be hard pressed to find a team that can lose two top players and qualify for the national championship.”

As the season comes to a close, Matuszak said she will miss the time spent with such a talented group of seniors.

“We really become like a little family, and so it’s hard to see the seniors go at the end of the season,” Matuszak said. “Although I am sad this season is coming to an end, I am excited for the NCAA Tournament because I think we are about to post some of our lowest scores yet.”

Hamilton echoed the thoughts of his sophomore golfer.

“I’d really like to finish in the top four and bring some hardware home,” Hamilton said. “If we play our best for four days it will be tough to do, but it’s totally doable.”