Stevens: New Mexico Lobos Women Golf 2012-13 Season Preview
NEW MEXICO LOBOS WOMEN'S GOLF - 2012-13 SEASON PREVIEW
2012 Fall Schedule
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
If the lofty goal that the New Mexico Lobo women have set for themselves on the scorecard holds true in 2012-13, then every Lobo on the team needs to hit more fairways, drop more putts and cut their score.
And if this year's version of Jill Trujillo's Lobos keeps their 18-hole count below 76 (most of the time), then they might reach a few other goals that have been tickling their reach and exceeding their grasp the past two years:
1. A return to the Mountain West throne.
2. A return to the NCAA National Championships.
"Our goal is to not have many rounds over 75 and I think that's achievable," said Trujillo, in her sixth season as the Lobos' head coach. "We expect this year to be on the road to the National Championships in Athens, Georgia and I think the excitement of that goal will keep us motivated."
Of course, the Lobos have another goal to reach on the way. They would like to return to the top of the Mountain West - a summit owned by Lobos for three consecutive seasons: 2008, 2009 and 2010. "We want to get our title back," said senior Beth Buchner.
The Lobos finished fourth in the spring of 2012, placing only Sammi Stevens, now a junior, on the All-Mountain West team.
"The team didn't like the way we finished in conference the past two years," said Trujillo. "I wouldn't be surprised if they come away with a conference championship this year. We have the talent to do it. Now, we have to come together at the same time.
"That's the trick."
The Lobos didn't pull that trick out of their golf bags much in 2011-12, but did throw out a solid season and advanced to NCAA Regional play for the 20th consecutive season.
The Lobos lost two solid seniors from last year in Rebecca Hellbom and Sarah Salvo, but Hellbom finished the season with a 76.94 stroke average and Salvo ended at 77.21. The team averaged 304.44. Simply put, the Lobos need to shoot better golf.
If the Lobos can hover near - or below - 76 on most rounds, they likely would challenge for the 2013 Mountain West title and be among the elite teams in the nation. The Top 20 teams last year averaged 73.08 (No. 1 UCLA) to 75.45 (No. 20 Tennessee). There were 33 teams last year that averaged below 76.0 per player for 18 holes.
The top two scorers for Trujillo from last year - Manon De Roey (76.19) and Sammi Stevens (76.23) - return as juniors. Trujillo has to look for senior Beth Buchner (77.45), junior Sofia Hoglund (77.56) and two freshmen, Ira Knopf and Xenia Knopf from Germany to plug the holes left by Hellbom and Salvo.
"I'm excited about this year," said Trujillo. "The majority of the team is upperclassmen with a senior and three juniors. Their experience over the past three years will be a key to our success. This group has a good attitude and we have a senior who is all in and that's an important element for a team."
Buchner has a good chance to lower her stroke average. She battled a back injury throughout the 2011-12 season, but showed her potential for outstanding golf at last year's Susie Maxwell Berning Classic in Norman, Okla., where she shot a final-round 69 to tie for third.
The Lobos had several golfers finish in the top 10 in various tournaments, but didn't always come "together at the same time," like Trujillo wants. De Roey had fifth-place and eighth-place finishes. Hoglund won the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational on the UNM Championship Course. Stevens had a No. 3 and a No. 10 finish.
NEW MEXICO LOBOS WOMEN'S GOLF -- 2012-13 ROSTER
"These ladies have been broken in the past couple of years competing against top players and top teams," said Trujillo. "They know they can compete with and beat the best teams in the country."
Trujillo said she is counting on Buchner to help on the scorecards, but also said her lone senior has become a dedicated and motivated leader.
"She is an excellent leader and a tough competitor," said Trujillo. "She loves to play and she loves her team. The responsibility of leadership is extremely important to her. I think that will be one of the game-changers for us is having that positive leadership that Beth will provide.
Said Buchner: "I'm the only senior this year and I have some big shoes to fill and I'm excited about it. I feel like I have a lot of respect from the team and I'm excited to do what I can to help us have the season we want this year."
De Roey was UNM's top scorer last year, but not by much - 76.19 to 76.23 for Stevens. De Roey won a tournament in Belgium this summer, shooting a 68 in the final round.
"She is ready to go," said Trujillo. "I don't think we have seen everything that Manon has under her belt and I expect her to blossom this year. "She has her sights set high. She is sweet on the outside, but she is a competitor inside.
"And Sammi has the potential to be an All-American - with hard work and the right mindset. She just needs to go lower this year (on the scorecard)."
Of course, in a nut shell, that's the key to the Lobos' 2012-13 season - go lower.
"We need a couple of golfers to step up and shine and shoot some low numbers for us," said Trujillo. "But we know it's going to happen.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and Sports Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com.