Three Straight Top-Four Finishes Highlight Season
April 29, 2003
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - At the end of a season, a team looks back to see if it accomplished its goals, and if it did not, the season is usually deemed a disappointment.
Not for the Maryland women's golf team. Not this year.
"We had only one goal this season - to go to the NCAA [tournament]," head coach Jason Rodenhaver said. "We're not going to get that bid, but that's not to say the season wasn't a success. We had a great spring, and we get closer and closer every year."
The fourth season of the women's golf team's existence actually proved to be its best yet, despite a sixth-place finish at the ACC Championships and no NCAA bid. The Terps finished in the top 10 in their last four tournaments, and placed in the top four in three consecutive events, including back-to-back second places.
The Terps began the spring season at the Edwin Watts/Carolinas Collegiate Classic in Pinehurst, N.C., after losing three weeks of practice time when a winter storm dumped about two feet of snow on College Park. The lack of preparation showed, as the team placed 17th, its worst finish of the year.
"Considering we didn't get to play the whole month of February, we did OK," Rodenhaver said.
But the Terps quickly recovered. They finished fourth at their next tournament, the Bradford Creek Women's Intercollegiate in Greenville, N.C., matching their best finish of the fall. Their second-round 298 marked only the second time in team history that they have broken 300 for a round.
Two weeks later, the team traveled to Daytona Beach, Fla., for the Hatter Spring Fling, carrying momentum into a tournament for the first time all year, and it showed. The Terps finished second and were led by a runner-up finish by junior Marie Harper (West Point, Va.). Just two strokes behind the individual winner, Harper posted the top individual performance by a Terp this season, and her personal best.
"Marie had a real good tournament, the first top-10 of her career," Rodenhaver said. "It gave her confidence that she carried with her to the next tournament."
The entire team carried a confidence to the next tournament, the JMU/Bonnie Hoover Invitational in Harrisonburg, Va., the site of the team's first-ever team victory, which they captured in 2001. All five Terps had played at Lakeview Golf Course at least once, including seniors Erin Clasper (North Potomac, Md.) and Carter Crowther (Kilmarnock, Va.), who played there all four years.
The team's familiarity with the course showed, as the Terps finished second again, placing three golfers in the top 12. Sophomore Kristen Shew (Hockessin, Del.) posted the best performance of her career, finishing in sixth place, and Clasper was two strokes behind in eighth. Harper was four strokes back in 12th place.
Now the Terps had momentum to carry into the ACC Championships. They had not faced any of their five conference foes all year, and the ACC is home to four of the nation's top 25 women's golf teams, including the No. 1 team in the country, Duke.
After heavy rain in round one, the Terps posted two of their lowest rounds of the season with identical 306's, but they still finished sixth.
"We didn't get to play those schools at all this year, and when we got there, we tried a little too hard," Rodenhaver said. "As the years go on and our schedule improves, we'll see them more often."
After experimenting with a different lineup in each fall tournament, Rodenhaver finally found one that worked in the second event this spring. Clasper, Crowther, Harper, Shew and junior Stacey Wolejko (Hatfield, Mass.) all competed in the final four tournaments of the season.
"We had a good chemistry on the road," Rodenhaver said.
Junior Katie Redeker (Pepper Pike, Ohio), who played at Pinehurst, injured her knee and never fully recovered. "She has a great chance to get back in the lineup next year," Rodenhaver said.
The end of the spring season marks the end of collegiate careers for three Terrapin seniors - Clasper, Crowther and Jennifer Gibson (Havertown, Pa.), all of whom were freshmen in the first year Maryland had a women's golf team.
"We're losing three girls who came to the program when we had nothing," Rodenhaver said. "They helped me build the program."
Clasper, the team captain since her junior season, played in every tournament in both the fall and the spring this year. A career highlighted by a share of the individual title at the UNC-Wilmington Lady Seahawk Invitational her junior season concluded with top-25 finishes in seven of nine tournaments this year.
"Erin is a solid player and a team leader, and she will be sorely missed," Rodenhaver said. "I am fortunate to have coached her for four years.
Crowther missed the first two tournaments of the fall, but played in the last seven and placed in the top 25 four times. Her best performance of the season came at the fall finale, the Edwin Watts/Palmetto Intercollegiate, where she finished 14th and carded a par 72 in the final round.
"When she got it going, she was as good as anybody," Rodenhaver said. "I am fortunate to have coached her."
With four upperclassmen returning next year, the Terps have a solid core to build around and a good example for the four incoming freshmen to follow.
Harper played in all nine tournaments between the fall and spring and posted the best stroke average on the team at 78.63. She finished first or second among Terps at seven events.
"Marie is starting to come into her own," Rodenhaver said. "She has the talent to be in the running for all-conference next year."
Shew and Wolejko each missed playing time in the fall before cementing their spot in the lineup in the spring.
"It was good to see Kristen finally put a couple tournaments together. She's closer to reaching her potential to be one of the best in the conference," Rodenhaver said. "Stacey got into the lineup in the fall and never relinquished her spot. Her hard work paid off."