Team prepares freshmen, experienced leader for season

Practice, practice and practice were the points of contention coach Patti Rizzo focused on before the women’s golf team traveled to Knoxville, Tenn. for the 16th Annual Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship.

Following their 12th place finish in a field of 16 teams, the Canes have a lot to work on.

“It’s difficult to keep up to speed with them, after this tournament for our fall offseason we are only allowed eight hours a week with players ‘til January,” Rizzo said.

Other than the eight hours a week given by the NCAA on the offseason, the players must practice on their own.

“This is an important tournament to help the younger players get their feet settled before the long break,” Rizzo said.

Practice began hard and early the week prior at Deering Bay Country Club. The theme for the day was setting a competitive edge to get the freshmen going.

“We have the girls doing match play to put the older girls up against the freshmen. It’ll really get them ready for tournaments going forward,” Rizzo said

With fresh rain on the fairway, it was a challenging day of preparation ahead of the tournament.

“It’s hard to practice after it rains, it just makes it difficult to judge the speed of the ball, but it’s going to help us be more aware for this tournament,” sophomore Leticia Ras-Anderica said. “We just have to keep practicing to get better.”

The young squad was only able to place one player in the top 25. Rika Park placed 21st at four over par, while shooting a team-low 73 on the weekend.

Freshman Laura Hendee finished 11 over and was closely followed by Christina Ocampo, also a freshman, who finished 12 over on the weekend.

The real story was the return of the team’s most senior member, Carina Cuculiza. Although she finished as an individual in the tournament at plus-17, it was an important weekend for her.

Having come off a knee injury it was a welcome back tournament for the returning junior.

“It feels good to be back playing and loosen myself up. I just want to play,” she said.

Rizzo was more than optimistic to have her experienced player back on the course.

“She’s a good putter and a consistent player,” Rizzo said. “It’s going to be great to have her back in the squad, but we just have to watch that knee.”

In tournaments prior to this one, Cuculiza was able to finish third overall on the team at the UNCG Starmount Forest Tournament from Greensboro, N.C.

With a healthy roster of players to throw into contention, Rizzo and the Canes have a long break ahead to mold themselves into the rankings before they kick off their spring season.

It’ll be familiar grounds for the women as they return at the Hurricane Invitational at Deering Bay Estates on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5.