Aug. 21, 2003
By Jeff Honza
CARBONDALE, Ill.Trends seem to work in mysterious ways, and for the Southern Illinois University women's golf team, its course of winning conference championships has proven truth to that.
Surprisingly enough, all five of SIU's league titles - three Gateway and two Missouri Valley - were won on even years. Knowing that, you can't help but wonder what's in store for the Salukis in 2004.
The Salukis return nearly everyone from a year ago and play host to this year's MVC Championship. Could this be a year to remember? Head Coach Diane Daugherty thinks so.
"This year, we have a great team from top to bottom," said Daugherty. "I'm excited about our returning golfers and newcomers. Potentially, this could be the best team I've ever coached at SIU."
Although the Dawgs clinched their last MVC Championship crown in 2000, Daugherty compared this year's squad to the 1998 Salukis, who also won a league title.
"We're solid all the way through just like the team in '98," explained Daugherty. "Our lineup, from one to five, has the capability of shooting par. If that happens, we'll be terrific."
Daugherty's lineup from "one to five" should be exciting to watch this season.
The Salukis return their top one-two punch in seniors Megan Tarrolly (Mequon, Wis.) and Amy Rankin (Decatur, Ill.). Sophomores Tiffany Fritsche (Willisville, Ill.), and Abbigail Johnson (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.), and junior Stefanie Pate (Carbondale, Ill.) also return. That combination competed in most of the tournaments last season.
Starting at the top, it should be a slugfest between Tarrolly and Rankin for the leading role.
An all-conference pick after tying for second at the MVC Championship, Tarrolly led the Salukis with a 79.3 stroke average last season. Recording 15 of 25 rounds in the 70s, she posted four top-10 individual finishes and registered a season-low score of 72.
"Megan stepped up last year and has all the confidence in the world," said Daugherty. "She's solid from the tee ball to the putting green. There isn't any aspect of her game that outweighs the others."
Rankin, on the other hand, was SIU's second-best golfer in 2003. Collecting a 81.5 stroke average in 25 rounds, she carded scores in the 70s on nine occasions. Additionally, she earned both MVC Scholar-Athlete and Golfer of the Week honors.
"It's unbelievable how much Amy has improved since her first year as a walk-on," said Daugherty. "She's been a delight to coach."
With Tarrolly and Rankin paving the way, the rest of the returnees, in addition to three talented freshmen, should give Daugherty a lot to choose from.
Leading candidates for the other three spots are Stefanie Pate, Fritsche and Johnson.
Pate saw action in every tournament and finished as the Salukis' third-leading golfer last season. She came on strong toward the end of the year, where she registered back-to-back top-20 finishes.
Fritsche competed in 21 rounds en route to a 83.1 average. Her highest finish came at the ISU Redbird Classic, where she tied for third. She also clubbed five rounds in the 70s.
Johnson rounded out the top-five a year ago. Averaging a score of 83.9 per round, she tied for eighth to help lead SIU to a third-place finish at the UNI Panther Classic (Sept. 22-23).
Others battling for lineup spots are junior Sara Pate (Carbondale, Ill.) and sophomore Natalie Parker (Elberfeld, Ind.). Freshmen Kelly Gerlach (Sparta, Ill.), Samantha Sutzer (Springfield, Ill.) and Lindsey Pippins (Anna, Ill.) will also challenge.
Pate and Parker played sparingly last season, as each participated in at least three tournaments. Of her seven rounds played, Parker posted one in the 70s, while Pate had a 88.7 average in 10 rounds.
Gerlach joins the Salukis from Sparta High School, where she compiled a career record of 73-12. A four-time state qualifier, she was named All-South, All-Metro and team MVP in each of her prep seasons.
Meanwhile, Sutzer was a four-time all-conference pick at Sacred Heart Griffin High School in Springfield, Ill. Also a two-time State Journal-Register Girl's Golfer of the Year, she ranked third in the state as a senior.
Rounding out the squad is Pippins, who will likely redshirt as a walk-on this season. She joins the Dawgs from Anna-Jonesboro High School, where she was her team's MVP in 2001.
In addition to hosting its annual Saluki Invitational and the 2004 MVC Championship, SIU hits the road to face some tough competition this season.
Probably the biggest tournaments the Salukis compete at this year are the Minnesota Invitational (9/20-21, Minneapolis, Minn.)., Kent Youel Invitational (11/4-5, Honolulu, Hawaii) and Texas-Pan American (2/23-24, Edinburg, Texas).
Also listed on this year's slate are trips to the ISU Redbird Classic (9/7-8, Normal, Ill.), Lady Indian Classic (10/13-14, Jonesboro, Ark.), Peggy Kirk Bell (3/8-9, Orlando, Fla.) and Snowbird Classic (3/11-12, Tampa, Fla.).
"I've always had the philosophy if we play big, we'll rise to the occasion," said Daugherty "It's easier to recruit when we travel to places like Hawaii, Minnesota, Florida and Texas. We play against great teams every year, and the student-athletes like that."