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SMC Golf: Belles prepared for NCAAs

Jack Hefferon | Wednesday, May 4, 2011

After a dramatic come-from-behind victory at the MIAA Qualifier last weekend, the No. 12 Belles will have a chance to prove themselves against the best field in the country at the NCAA Division III championships.

Last year, Saint Mary’s sat several strokes behind Olivet after the first round of the qualifier, but rallied in the final two rounds on their home course to win the event. They built on that momentum at the national tournament, equaling their best-ever showing at the NCAAs with a fourth-place finish. Besides the trophies and accolades, though, the Belles also gained a wealth of experience, something they hope will help carry them to the top of the leaderboard again this year.

“The experience [from last year] is a huge advantage,” senior captain Mary Kate Boyce said. “Senior Rosie O’Connor, junior Natalie Matuszak and myself have competed in the last two national championships, so we have a feel for the nerves that come with playing in a big event like this. We hope our experience will help the freshmen keep their nerves in check for the tournament, too.”

This year, the Belles hope that history will continue to repeat itself. For the second straight year, the team came back in the final round of the qualifier to beat Olivet, this time after trailing by as many as 12 strokes. Saint Mary’s charged back behind the strength of a phenomenal 315 in the final round, and placed all five of its scorers in the top 10. With the team playing its best golf at just the right time, the Belles hope to ride that momentum to another high finish at the NCAA tournament.

“The berth was essential to going into the national championship with confidence,” Boyce said. “Being able to beat a tough team when we needed to has allowed us to build our self-confidence. We were able to perform well under pressure which is quite an accomplishment considering we have some young players. I definitely feel like we’re peaking at the right time.”

But while they have had many successes recently, the atmosphere of the national championship will be unlike any other tournament Saint Mary’s has played this year. With so much riding on each shot, keeping their composure in check may be more important than keeping the ball in the fairway.

“We have worked very hard this season to prepare ourselves for a shot at the national title,” Boyce said. “Winning the title will take incredible mental toughness. The competition will be fierce, with 20 great teams all looking to achieve the same goal. The team that can deal with the highs and lows of the round will have the best shot at winning.”

Despite the pressure and expectations, Boyce remains positive and excited, and said she cannot wait to take to the course for her last collegiate tournament.

“I am very excited for the tournament because this is the icing on the cake,” she said. “We’ve made it this far, now all we can do is our best. We hope to be bringing our teammates back a massive trophy.”

The first round of the NCAA Division III championships will begin Tuesday in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. Tournament action will continue all week, concluding with the final round Friday.