"I think this year's team could be the most talented group that has ever played at the University of Arizona," he said. "Not only could we have five All-Americans, but we appear to have all the pieces in place to challenge for the national title as well.
High expectations indeed, especially when you consider all the success Arizona women's golf has enjoyed over the years. But, when you return five of your top-six golfers from a team that won four tournaments last season while placing fourth at the NCAA's, you should have plenty of reason to be excited.
And besides, it's not like this is new territory for the Wildcats. Afterall, in this past four years, this program has not finished out of the top-four at the NCAA Championships, while winning two NCAA West Regionals titles and two Pacific-10 Conference crowns.
"We have great depth and experience, and our players get along like no other team I have ever been associated with," McCorkle said of his team which was ranked No. 2 in the preseason rankings. "They will also be motivated by not getting to finish the NCAA Championships last year when the final round was rained out. We felt like we had a good shot to win it all, but were not allowed to get the chance to finish it."
If all of the expectations for a season to remember hold true, it will start with the play of National Player of the Year candidate, Jenna Daniels (Bonita, Calif.). One of the most consistent golfers in Arizona history, she was a first team All-America performer last season and will enter the fall campaign with 11 top-10 finishes in her past 17 tournaments dating back to 1998. One of five seniors on the 1999-2000 roster, she won the NCAA West Regional as a junior last year and tied for seventh at the NCAA Championships.
Ranked No. 2 in the preseason rankings, she won the California State Amateur this past summer for the second year in a row, and if at all possible, an even better year is the call for her in her final collegiate season.
"All of Jenna's success is due in part to how hard of a worker she is," McCorkle said. "She also does not like to fail, and her commitment to succeed gives her a chance to win any tournament she enters. Jenna has improved more than anyone I have ever coached from the start of a collegiate career and she will definitely be one of our anchors this season."
Another senior who gives Arizona reason for its high hopes in 1999-2000 is Jill Gomric (Belleville, Ill.). An honorable mention All-American last season and ranked No. 20 in this year's preseason rankings, she finished last year ranked No. 24 in the country after recording four top-10 finishes and two top-20 performances. A talented all-around athlete, she is battle-tested after being a part of two Arizona Pac-10 title teams and the 1998 NCAA West Regional first place squad as well. At last year's Pac-10 Championships, she placed eighth and was a first team all-conference selection.
"During her career, Jill's game has just become better and better and she really knows how to compete," McCorkle said. "She is one of our leaders and I expect her to be one of our golfers who will compete for All-America honors this season. When you combine her ability with Jenna's, I think you may just have the best one-two punch in women's collegiate golf this season."
A Wildcat golfer who made her imprint on the collegiate scene in just her first season last year is sophomore Cristina Baena (Pereira, Colombia). An honorable mention All-America in 1998-99 after having five top-10 performances and two-top-20 finishes, she will be a vital component of the UA's continued drive for national prominence this year. As one of the top freshmen golfers in the country lasts season, she finished the year ranked No. 21 and was the Cats' top finisher at the Pac-10 Championships, tying for sixth. Ranked No. 22 in the 1999-2000 preseason rankings, she played a major role in all of the Wildcats' tournament titles last year, as she finished in the top-10 in each of them.
"Cristina is a very natural player who will only get better for us this season," McCorkle said. "I thought she would have good season for us last year, but she went far and beyond our expectations. She is great for our team chemistry since she is such a free spirit and does a good job at keeping everyone's spirits high."
Another talented senior veteran who the Wildcats will look to for steady play is Shannon Ingalls (Fallbrook, Calif.). An honorable mention All-Pac-10 performer as a sophomore, she played in five tournaments for the Cats last season and competed among the top-five until the latter portion of the year. In her career, she has 10 top-20 finishes and has the all-around game that will help the Cats tremendously this season.
"Shannon is a consistent player who knows how to win," McCorkle said. "She has the skill to compete for All-America honors and I expect that her senior season will be one of her best. If we are to be successful as a team this year, Shannon will have a big part in it."
A player who made the most strides last season for the Wildcats is junior Christina Monteiro (Las Vegas, Nevada). She came on for the team in a big way towards the end of the season while making the jump into the top-five for the Pac-10, NCAA West Regional and NCAA Championships. Her best outing of the year came at the Pac-10 Championships when she tied for 11th. She would then tie for 25th at the NCAA West Regionals and tied for 21st at the NCAAs. With that experience added to her qualifying medalist performance at this past summer's U.S. Amateur, she too, will make the Wildcats an extremely competitive bunch.
"From the start to the end of last year, Christina was our most improved player," McCorkle said. "I was really excited about the way she finished the season, and I know that her play last year will give her a lot of confidence for the upcoming season. The consistency she showed at the end of last year transferred into her play this past summer, when she played well in both the U.S. Amateur and the Western Amateur."
There are two freshmen newcomers for Arizona this season, and both come in with top-flight credentials.
The first is Julia Kraschinski, a product of the Bradenton Academy in Florida, who came to the United States from New Zealand. One of the top junior golfers in the country, she was ranked third in the nation at the end of the 1998 season and sixth following 1999. A 1998 American Junior Golf Association first team All-American, McCorkle thinks she is one of the best prospects in the country and can't wait to get her out on the course with the team.
"Julia has the ability to overpower a golf course," he said. "She is a very long hitter and may be as talented as any freshman in the country. She will help make our top-five even stronger this year."
The second newcomer to the Wildcats for 1999-2000 is freshman Anne Lee, who is from Northridge, Calif. Another one of the nation's top junior golfers, she attended Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. and enjoyed a lot of success on the AJGA circuit. She also played on the Canon Cup team this past summer, a squad that is comprised of the nation's top-12 junior golfers.
"The strength of Anne's game is how straight of a hitter she is," McCorkle said. "She has a great swing and brings a wealth of junior experience with her, which will make her a good player for us. She will be one of those among our top-eight players who will compete to qualify for each tournament we play in. Our qualifying rounds will be the most competitive I have ever been a part of and that alone will make everyone a better golfer."
Sophomore Laura Myerscough (Charleston, Ill.) is another talented player for the UA who brings a ton of experience to the program.
"Laura struggled a little bit last year, but had a great summer," McCorkle said. "She should challenge for a post in our top-five this season."
Also making up the nation's preseason No. 2 team will be a group of golfers who include seniors Cristelle Cuzon (Tahiti, French Polynesia) and Dannielle Beyer (Tucson, Ariz.) and junior Cathie Williamson (Shelby, Mont.).
"All three of these ladies help make our roster one of the deepest in the nation," McCorkle said. "They will all get a chance to play some golf for us this season and will have a hand in any of the success we want to achieve."
As far as the race for the national title goes, McCorkle expects his squad to compete with the likes of familiar powers as Duke, Georgia, USC and Arizona State.
"Women's collegiate golf is becoming so competitive," he said. "There are so many good golfers out there at the moment. I think that we are playing one of the most competitive schedules we have ever had and that will make us better down the stretch.