Head coach notices marked development in fall season
Rutgers head women’s golf coach Maura Waters-Ballard saw as much as a coach could ask of a team between the spring and fall seasons with clear improvement.
As a team, the Scarlet Knights lowered their average finish by nearly three places. They posted three top-three finishes, compared to only one in the spring. And they lowered their scores.
Waters-Ballard took notice of all of it.
“Our stroke average is about 14 shots lower than it was this time last year, so we’re making great strides,” she said. “The girls are really working hard and it’s paying off.”
Perhaps one of the biggest questions facing Waters-Ballard entering the fall season was how she was going to fill the void left by former captain Jeanne Waters.
Waters was consistently part of the contributing scores for the Knights, and finding someone to match her scores was not an easy task.
Freshman Kortnie Maxoutopoulis more than answered the call, leading the Knights in each of the five fall tournaments and winning two of them.
Her only finish outside the top five was the Rainbow Wahine Invitational, at which the Knights saw some of the best teams in the country, including No. 1 UCLA.
“[Kortnie] has been great. She’s played very steady, very consistently, very focused,” Waters-Ballard said. “She’s a fabulous addition to the team as a freshman, competing so well her first year.”
But with all of the excitement surrounding the emerging freshman star, Waters-Ballard has not lost sight of the contributions and strides of the rest of the team.
“Our captain leader, Lizzy Carl, really motivated the girls. She has done a great job keeping us focused. We’ve got great leadership and also great underclassmen that are doing a great job,” she said. “Everybody is working hard and in great spirits.”
The biggest weapon for the Knights during the upcoming spring season might not be their freshman standout, but rather added experience throughout the entire team, which is most important to Maxoutopoulis.
Waters-Ballard thinks as good as Maxoutopoulis was this season, she can come out even stronger in the spring.
“I think the experience Kortnie gained this fall will do her very well in the spring,” Waters-Ballard said. “I think we can probably see even a little better play from her in the spring now that she knows what it’s all about and has a season under her belt.”
In order to prepare for the spring, the work does not stop. The Knights are going to squeeze all of the course time they can out of the fall, as well as move some training indoors.
“We’re going to be going into the gym three days a week, working out,” Waters-Ballard said. “We’ll still play golf on Tuesdays and Thursdays, weather permitting.”
The Knights have from now until March 16 to keep in shape and prepare for the spring, which Waters-Ballard said could be more intense.
“I think the spring might be a little stronger actually, competition-wise, than the fall,” she said. “[The Columbia Roaree Invitational] will be Ivy League teams which are very good. The Cincinnati event is fairly competitive.”
The finale of the spring season is the Big East Championships, which showcases the toughest competition all year. The Knights took sixth place last year at the Championships. Waters-Ballard sees this season’s squad improving on the mark.
The Knights have little time to enjoy the improvements made this fall because they knows fast approaching is their final exam, the Big East Championships.
“Right now we are ahead of three teams in the rankings. I think we can keep that position,” she said. “That would be my goal, to beat out those three, and there are seven teams so we would come in fourth place. I see us in the top five for Big East.”