JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 13, 2011) - After a 2009-10 season that resulted in the program's highest national ranking and its first-ever, at-large bid to the NCAA regionals, the ETSU women's golf team will begin its quest for another trip to the NCAA postseason this week at the 2011 Northrop Gruman Regional Challenge, hosted by Ohio State University at the Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes, Calif.
The tournament will begin Monday and conclude with third round action on Wednesday. Live scoring from the 5,912-year, Par 71 course will be available at www.golfstat.com.
The Buccaneers are wasting little time taking on a challenge this spring, as the field for the Northrop Gruman event will feature No. 1 UCLA and No. 3 USC. Those two schools - along with teams such as Arizona State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Pepperdine, Wake Forest, Louisville and Florida - make this one of the strongest fields ETSU has ever faced.
With the departure of graduated seniors and longtime contributors such as Laura Jansone (Jurmala, Latvia), Sinead O'Sullivan (Galway, Ireland) and Kennie Leigh Eisenhower (Newport), head coach Stefanie Shelton will be relying on a different cast of characters this year - including four new faces on a six-player roster.
"Each of the girls on this team has experience winning at certain levels, whether on the amateur scene or in college golf," Shelton said. "We expect to win here at ETSU this year - and achieve new levels of success, such as taking the entire team to Nationals. It is a new batch of talent, but a great mix that can reach even higher goals."
Despite the new faces, there is talent coming back to Johnson City. Senior Nina Muehl (Vienna, Austria) returns after a strong finish a year ago, when she qualified for the NCAA Championships as an individual after finishing fourth at the NCAA regionals. Muehl, whose program record 8-under-par 64 in the first round of the regionals made national headlines, will be joined by highly-skilled and talented junior Mayte Vizcarrondo (Cadiz, Spain) as the team's only two returning players.
In the fall of 2010, Muehl finished second on the team in stroke average at 76.0 and enjoyed two Top 20 individual finishes. Meanwhile, Vizcarrondo was third on the team in stroke average at 78.0, and also finished in the Top 20 on two different occasions.
As for the newcomers to the squad, they include junior college transfers Pearl Asaka Sim (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Lauren Smith (Cramlington, England), along with true freshmen Larissa Steinfeldt (Eschweiler, Germany) and Sian Evans (Gillingham, England).
In the fall, Evans was the most impressive player on the team. She led the squad with a 74.5 stroke average and posted three Top 20 finishes, including a third place showing at the Lady Paladin Invitational - which she led at the conclusion of the second round. Meanwhile, Steinfeldt finished four on the team in stroke average.
"With four new ladies on team this year, I look to Nina and Mayte for leadership," Shelton said. "They have been a part of our most successful teams, and can use that experience and those expectations to lead us even farther."
The Bucs will play a spring schedule which includes five tournaments prior to the Atlantic Sun Conference Championships, which will be played April 11-13 in Deland, Fla.
For more on ETSU women's golf throughout the season, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the women's golf link