Sophomore core allows for growth as year concludes for RU
Replacing seniors for any team can be a rigorous obstacle to overcome.
For Rutgers head women’s golf coach Maura Ballard, losing two seniors to graduation meant inheriting one of the youngest teams of her 21-year tenure.
Ballard entered the fall season with five sophomores and two freshmen. While the goal is to ultimately compete and challenge in tournaments, Ballard knew there would be growing pains.
“I think this is a huge building year, and I think this fall has been a big building season for us going into the spring,” Ballard said.
With no clear leader yet, the sophomores had to make larger contributions.
In four of the five tournaments this fall, a second-year player finished first for the team, with the exception being freshman Taylor Clark’s performance Sept. 29 at the Penn State Invitational.
Sophomore Gabrielle Sacheli led the Knights in their first fall tournament, finishing eighth Sept. 8 at the Bucknell Invitational. Sophomore Samantha Moyal led the squad Sept. 22 at the Yale Women’s Intercollegiate and this past Sunday at the Hoosier Fall Invitational. Sophomore Jackie Mullens finished in a career-high eighth place Oct. 15 at the Rutgers Invitational.
“I think all five of us [sophomores] share the leadership role pretty equally,” Mullens said. “And having two freshmen, we’ve all helped them find their way on the golf team. We’re still learning ourselves, so sometimes it’s difficult to lead. But I think we’re growing as a team and we’re growing together so it’s going to be a good thing by the time we’re seniors.”
The Knights enter the offseason wanting to improve on their mental games through Vision 54, Ballard’s coaching philosophy, as well as physical advances with the help of first-year volunteer assistant coach Jeffrey Sommer.
The offseason also provides the players a chance to reflect on their performances and take the experiences they gained from the fall to improve their games.
For freshman Maddy Gedeon, the experience has been valuable.
“The first tournament, I had no idea what to expect or how anything worked,” Gedeon said. “The more tournaments I played, I kind of knew where I needed to be and how I have to play. … I think I learned a lot from these tournaments.”
Despite the failures this season, Ballard believes the experience will only serve as motivation to work harder for the spring season.
“I think they’re going to be really prepared, we’re going to be doing a lot of mental training over the winter, work on some swing changes and this fall is going to be a great building block for the spring,” Ballard said.
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