Teeing Off: The preseason No. 1 Arizona Wildcat women's golf team kicks off their NCAA title defense this weekend at the NCAA Fall Preview at El Campen Golf Course at the Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. The tournament marks Arizona's first competition under new coach Greg Allen. Play begins Friday, Sept. 15, and continues until Sunday, Sept. 17. Tee-off is at 8:00 a.m. all three days. A first-place finish would extend Arizona's consecutive tournament victory streak to nine.
El Campen and Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort: Play will take place on the par 72, 6,210 yard El Campen Golf Course at the Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort. Mission Inn is located in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., about 40 minutes northwest of Orlando in the Florida hill country. El Campen is naturally gifted with water on 13 of 18 holes, towering forests and rare 85-foot elevation differences from tee to green. This signature layout is rated in the top 25 of Florida's 1,100-plus courses. Charles E. Clarke of Troon, Scotland designed the original course in 1926. The signature 17th hole "Devil's Delight," a 538-yard double dogleg, has been labeled a golfer's version of a thrill ride and claims to have more obstacles than some entire courses do. El Campen will be the site of the NCAA Championships on May 23-26, 2001.
Las Campenes: The defending National Champion Wildcats return to action for the first time since May 27 when they captured the 2000 NCAA title, the school's second in the last five years. Arizona turned in one of the most dominating performances in the 19-year history of the tournament. Second-place Stanford finished the tournament trailing Arizona by 21 strokes, the third-largest margin in NCAA Championship history. Three Wildcat golfers finished in the top 10 at the championships, held at Crosswater Course in Sunriver, Ore. Alumna Jenna Daniels took the individual title with a one-under par 287, sophomore Julia Kraschinski finished in second, and junior Cristina Baena tied for third.
The Lineup: Golfer Yr. Notes Lorena Ochoa Fr. Semi-finalist at the U.S. Women's Amateur in 99 Cristina Baena Jr. 73.44 avg. in 99-00, 3rd at 2000 Pac-10 Champs. Laura Myerscough Jr. competing for first time since Feb. 99 Christina Monteiro Sr. 75.67 avg. in 99-00, tied 6th at NCAA West Reg. Nancy Abiecunas Fr. 1st team HS All-American in 1999
Injury Update: Sophomore Julia Kraschinski and freshman Natalie Gulbis are out of action due to injured backs. Both will miss the NCAA Preview and are expected to be out for the Dick McGuire Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. They will be re-evaluated prior to the Stanford/Pepsi Invitational in October.
Freshmen Debuts: Two Arizona freshmen will make their first appearances for Wildcat golf this weekend. Lorena Ochoa qualified at the No. 1 spot for the Cats and boasts an outstanding list of previous accomplishments. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Ochoa has won seven Mexican Junior National Championships, reached the semifinals and quarterfinals in 1999 and 2000 respectively, and was named the best high school golfer in Mexico four times from 1997 to 2000. Nancy Abiecunas begins her UA career with a line of achievements as impressive as Ochoa's. After being named a high school All-American in 1999, Abiecunas competed for the U.S. at the Izzo Cup which pits the top American youth golfers against the top Scandinavian youth. Abiecunas went 3-1 for the U.S. team and finished in third place in points standings.
The Field: Also competing in the NCAA Fall Preview this weekend are 13 other schools ranked in the MasterCard Preseason Collegiate Golf Rankings. In all, there will be eight of the top-10 ranked schools at the Fall Preview, missing are No. 2 Stanford and No. 6 Tulsa. Notables include the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils, who have come the closest to snapping Arizona's streak in its infant stage by finishing just one shot back of the Cats at the Golf World Invitational way back in November of 1999. No. 7 Texas, No. 4 Southern California, and No. 12 Tennessee, who finished third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, behind the Wildcats at the NCAA Championships in May, will participate. Intra-state rival No. 11 Arizona State will make the trip to Florida as well. Competing for Southern California will be the nation's top-ranked individual sophomore Candie Kung.
Teams Competing in the 2000 NCAA Fall Preview:
Last Year at the NCAA Preview: At Crosswater Golf Club in Sunriver, Ore, Arizona came roaring back on the final day of competition and shot the low-round of the tournament with a 286. However, it wasn't enough to overtake leader and eventual winner Duke. The Wildcats finished tied for second place with Southern California with a total of 882, just four shots behind tourney champ Duke. Cristina Baena fired a five-over par 221, while Julia Kraschinski was just one back of her with a 222. Christina Monteiro came in at a 22-over par 238. Later in the year, The Wildcats returned to Crosswater to claim the national championship with their dominant performance.
Cats Climb the Polls: Arizona is the top-ranked team in the preseason edition of the MasterCard Collegiate Golf Rankings released last week. The Wildcats garnered 330 votes, ahead of conference rival Stanford who claims the No. 2 spot with 317 votes. Other Pac-10 teams in the top 25 include No. 4 Southern California, No.11 Arizona State, No. 18 UCLA, and No. 24 Oregon. Individually, the Cats are also well-represented. Junior Cristina Baena is rated No. 2 in the nation by the MasterCard rankings. Sophomore Julia Kraschinski checks in at No. 7 with 217 votes, just three votes out of sixth-place. The next edition of the MasterCard rankings will be released October 4.
The Streak: It may not be as prominent as the 71-game home court winning streak once held by Coach Lute Olson and the Arizona men's basketball team, but the streak currently owned by Wildcat women golfers remains quite impressive. Arizona has not finished a competition out of first place since Oct. 25, 1999 when they wrapped up action in the Stanford/Pepsi Invitational in fifth place, 11 shots behind tournament champ Tulsa. Since then, the Wildcats have gone on to win eight consecutive tournaments by a combined 67 shots, including the Pac-10 Conference Championship, the NCAA West Regional, and their 21-shot victory at the National Championship tournament.
Wildcat Coaching Staff: Coach Greg Allen will lead the Wildcats for the first time in competition this weekend. Allen, who was hired in late July, comes to the University of Arizona from Texas where he was the assistant coach for the Longhorns' men's golf team. Allen helped guide Texas to the 1999-2000 NCAA Central Region championship and a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. He graduated from Murray State University in 1993. Allen is assisted by Amy Solfisburg who is in her eighth year with the Wildcat women's golf program. Solfisburg attended the Univeristy of Arizona and is a native of Michigan.
Reloading, not rebuilding: Arizona loses three letterwinners from last year's national championship team, including 1999-2000 seniors Jenna Daniels and Jill Gomric. But more significant is who returns for the Cats. Junior Cristina Baena, sophomore Julia Kraschinski, and senior Christina Monteiro are back, all three played in each of the Wildcats' 11 tournaments last year. Together, the three averaged 74.66 in 1999-2000. Factor in freshmen Lorena Ochoa, Nancy Abiecunas, and Natalie Gulbis and Arizona appears poised for another title run. Ochoa qualified in the No. 1 spot for the Wildcats heading into this weekend's NCAA Preview. She reached the semifinals of the 1999 U.S. Women's Amateur and the quarterfinals of the 2000 U.S. Women's Amateur. Abiecunas comes to Tucson after a high school career that saw her win five American Junior Golf Association tournament titles and be named First Team All-American in 1999. Gulbis won the U.S. High School Championship in 1999 by 21 shots. Baena was named to the All-Pac-10 First Team, as well as earning an honorable mention on the All-Academic Pac-10 team. Monteiro and Kraschinski were both selected to the All-Pac-10 honorable mention team.
Coach Allen's Thoughts: "This team is ready to get back into competition. Obviously last year was a banner year, but we are ready to move forward and try to accomplish the same thing this year. The girls have been great...I can already tell that they are super competitive and just ready to get back after it. The Preview is a big tournament for us- the first one of the year against the best teams, but also because it is the site of the national championship in May. We will go in very positive, give it everything we've got, and try to put ourselves in a position to win come Sunday."