Saint Mary’s just misses out on NCAA tournament
Jack Concannon | Friday, May 19, 2017
The Belles are coming off their most successful season in program history, coming up just a few strokes shy of qualifying for the NCAA Division III tournament.
The Belles’ second place finish in the regular season earned them one of four coveted playoff spots, while four Saint Mary’s players — sophomore Taylor Kehoe, freshman Lauren Read and seniors Courtney Carlson and Ali Mahoney — ended the season by being honored as All-MIAA competitors.
Freshman Emily Besler said the Belles’ success in the regular season was exciting for the team, as their main goal was to make the playoffs.
“We set high expectations for our team and held each other accountable all season long,” Besler said. “We knew with hard work we could advance past the fall and have a shot at a trip to the NCAA championship. None of us wanted to stop playing after the fall, so we were thrilled to continue our season into the spring.”
After completing their fall season, the Belles went into a spring season that included both conference tournaments and opportunities to compete with bigger programs. Saint Mary’s placed 10th in the Division III National Spring Preview Tournament in Houston, a tournament in which freshman Kaitlyn Gray felt her team could have performed better.
“We could’ve done a little better,” Gray said. “We all shot a few shots higher than we usually do and our placing wasn’t very good. We could have definitely been better.”
The Belles bounced back from that result in the first round of the MIAA tournament. The Belles’ second-place regular season finish earned them the right to host the first day of the tournament, while the regular season champion Hope hosted the final two rounds played the next weekend.
The Belles led the way after the first round at Knollwood Country Club, edging out Hope to end the day with a one-shot lead. Mahoney paced the team with an 80 to finish second individually in the field.
“The first day went well. Some of the girls were looking to shoot a bit lower, but it went really well,” Gray said of the first round. “Considering the conditions on the course, it was a good first day and put us in good position to keep doing well.”
Hope was able to take advantage of playing on its home course the following weekend. The Belles played solid golf, but ultimately fell short by two strokes. This put the team as close as it have ever come to earning the automatic spot in the NCAA tournament. Despite the disappointing result of the tournament, Besler feels there is much for the team to look forward to going forward.
“We’re a very young team,” Besler said. “We’re getting some great recruits soon. We’re on the rise. To get back to the position we were in [at the end of the tournament] is definitely going to be our goal.”