The Rutgers women's golf team will have a new look in 2008-09.The team welcomes six freshmen to a squad that returns three letterwinners. With 67 percent of her lineup teeing up in Scarlet for the first time, Head Coach Maura Ballard is working toward a smooth transition. Given the level of competition many of her newcomers faced at the junior level, the 16th-year mentor expects the rookies to have a positive and immediate impact.
"We have a great deal of talent coming in," said Ballard. "Many of our newcomers have a lot of experience, so I do not anticipate a problem with the transition to the college game. Travelling in junior events often means playing three or four days in a row, so most of their experience is gained outside of high school tournaments. That said, we also have recruits that only played scholastically and will have a more difficult transition, because more golf will be expected from them.
"There is the possibility that we could have four freshmen competing in the top five, so it will definitely be interesting."
"Jeanne displayed a lot of leadership at a young age last year and will be our captain," said Ballard. "She's very mature and should be able to handle that role."
Waters is joined by fellow sophomore Daley Owens (Taylorsville, Utah) and senior Stephanie Yastrub (Lake Grove, N.Y.) as returning letterwinners. The trio all was named to the BIG EAST All-Academic last season. Five women's golfers, including departed seniors Lauren Huhnerkoch and Jen Rudy, earned accolades from the league for their classroom performance. The team's cumulate grade point average in 2007-08 was 3.219.
"Academics are extremely important to our program," said Ballard. "It's essential that our players have the initiative to excel both on the course and in the classroom."
The six freshmen hail from five different states, with two calling the Garden State home. Elisa Mateer (Marmora, N.J.) and Kristina Lee (Haddonfield, N.J.) both excelled competing on co-ed teams in South Jersey and finished tied at the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions as seniors. Elizabeth "Lizzy" Carl (Mendota Heights, Minn.) arrives from the Gopher State after playing six years of varsity high school golf. She won nine straight tournaments as a senior. The longest drive to campus belongs to Kirsten Day (Alhambra, Calif.), who earned multiple top finishes on the California Junior Tour. Rounding out the rookies is Anne McNiel (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Brooke Stepanek (Guilford, Conn.). McNiel was a four-time all-conference selection from the prestigious Stanton Prep. Stepanek hails from a golf family, with two sisters competing collegiately, and was a two-time All-State honoree.
The team is scheduled to compete in six tournaments in the fall and four tournaments in the spring. The 2009 BIG EAST Championship will take place in Dade City, Fla. in mid April. The fall schedule begins in early September at the Bucknell Invitational. The annual Rutgers Invitational tees off October 10-11.
" The schedule is somewhat conservative," said Ballard." It's a very young team, so I want to ensure the process is gradual. I would like to start locally and push them as they gain experience.
"A good fall season will be the entire squad averaging under 85. I know that doesn't sound like much of a goal, but we have not done it recently. We will have some players averaging under 80, but we need to achieve collective improvement. In the long term, I see this team just getting better and better every year."