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Knights prepare to defend home turf

<p>Sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis tries to defend her title at the Rutgers Invitational. The team took second last season.</p>

Sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis tries to defend her title at the Rutgers Invitational. The team took second last season.

The Rutgers women’s golf team returns to tournament action today and tomorrow at home in the 21-team Rutgers Invitational.

The Scarlet Knights look to redeem themselves on their home course following a disappointing ninth-place finish in the Yale Intercollegiate on Sept. 21-23 in New Haven, Conn.

Head coach Maura Waters-Ballard called Yale the most challenging college golf course in the nation, with elements of which her golfers were unfamiliar.

“The girls are really excited to be playing on their home course,” Waters-Ballard said. “We’ve been honing in our skills and getting used to the speed of these greens and the different lies on our own course. I think we’re going to do quite well.”

The Knights are pleased to be back on familiar grounds at the Rutgers University Golf Course. The team aims to finish what it started at the Rutgers Invitational last fall, when it captured second place and fell short of winning the event by two strokes to Boston College.

Sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis won the individual player field as a freshman and tries to duplicate that performance. She has two top-six finishes this season to pace the Knights, but has yet to win a tournament.

The team believes playing at home will help calm some of the freshmen’s early-season nerves.

Through the first two tournaments of the season, the freshmen on the Knights’ final scorecards have averaged 242.7 strokes per event — 11 strokes worse than the veterans’ average of 231.7.

The Knights’ veterans need more support from the freshmen to be successful.

“For [me] personally, I actually feel relaxed and comfortable because I’m familiar with the course,” said freshman Samantha Moyal. “I’m really excited to go out and show coach, myself and everybody what I can do.”

But the Knights also understand they need to remain focused and not take a victory on their home course for granted.

“There’s definitely more pressure on our home turf,” said freshman Melanie Chambers, “because you’re expected to do well and have that advantage of knowing the course better than everyone else.”

Regardless, the Knights remain confident and expectations are high, with anything short of a first-place finish considered a disappointment.

“We want to win it and I think we can win it,” Waters-Ballard said. “That’s everyone’s goal in their hearts — to win this event. And we can win it individually, too. We have really good players on the team, and I think we can take both the individual and the tournament title.”

Moyal, who has focused on her mental game recently in practice, also has her sights set on winning the tournament.

“We’re going to win it,” she said. “That’s what we’re going for. We just have to play our game and shoot those low scores.”

The first 18 holes of the invitational will play out today, and the tournament will conclude tomorrow with the final 18.

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