During their first team meeting of the fall several days ago, Oregon women’s golf head coach Ria Scott and her team recalled their first fall meeting of last year. Around a year ago, the coaching staff asked the team if they thought they could win a national championship. The answer last season, according to Scott, was a yes, but there was some hesitation in that answer.
This year, when Scott posed the question again, her team’s response was slightly different.
“This year, it was a really convincing yes,” Scott said.
Now, less than four months removed from Oregon’s deep push in the NCAA Championships, the Ducks have a newfound confidence. Oregon has national title aspirations in mind once again, and this year the Ducks think they can achieve that goal.
Last spring at Eugene Country Club, Oregon retold the Cinderella story in the NCAA Championships. The Ducks shot their way to the quarterfinals but eventually fell to UCLA. Still, Oregon considers its championship run incredibly rewarding and invaluable, regardless of result.
“It was just an unreal experience,” senior and team captain Cathleen Santoso said.
Santoso is one of three returning seniors, along with Marcella Pranovia and Brenna Murphy. She was Oregon’s top performer last spring and looks to build on her success this year before turning pro upon graduation.
Pranovia has had a less conventional career at Oregon so far. Last fall, she fell out of the rotation but regained her composure in spring. She earned her spot back and was a key part of Oregon’s postseason run.
Murphy hasn’t played significant time in several seasons but she could find herself back in the rotation if she performs well in qualifying this week.
Along with the seniors, Oregon brings back juniors Kelsey Ulep and Megan Conder. Ulep had four finishes last season either at or below par. Conder missed all of last season with an injury but is back on the course now, and according to Scott, “is hitting it farther than [she’s] ever seen her.”
The Ducks also return two sophomores: Petra Salko and Kathleen Scavo. Both played a significant role in Oregon’s success last spring and will be key pieces for the Ducks again this year. “They’ve definitely come a long way,” Santoso said. “I really expect some big things from those two.”
Joining this already deep roster are Daniele Giles from Talent, Oregon, and Amy Matsuoka out of Newport Beach, California.
The Ducks have a busy fall schedule ahead of them. They kick their season off on Monday, Sept. 12 at the Red Raider Invitational in Lubbock, Texas. Then they travel to Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina and finally Hawaii at the end of October to wrap up their fall season.
The Ducks want to see as many NCAA regional sites as possible before spring rolls around.
“I don’t want to blindside our team with any conditions we haven’t seen before,” Scott said. “That’s the method to my madness.”
Scott and the Ducks have all the reason to be confident heading into the fall half of their season. They returned all but one player, Caroline Inglis – who departed for the pros – and have a young, talented core. Pair that with several seasoned veterans and a couple highly-touted freshmen and you’ve got yourself a national championship contender.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris