Youth develops throughout transition

<p>Sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis won an individual title and had her best stroke average in her second fall season.</p>

Sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis won an individual title and had her best stroke average in her second fall season.

Though the havoc Hurricane Sandy left dismissed chances of a satisfying culmination to its fall campaign, the Rutgers women’s golf team left Greenville, S.C., on Oct. 28 with pride.

The Scarlet Knights withdrew from the final round of the Furman Lady Paladin Invitational in seventh place to return home safely in the wake of the tumultuous storm, but the team believes its future shines brightly.

In a transition period that saw the loss of five veterans from last spring, the youthful Knights developed during the course of the fall season and consistently proved a willing contender in tournament play.

With five true freshmen on the roster, the Knights captured top-five finishes in three of five tournaments, all

of which comprised at least eight teams. Four of the

team’s events featured at least 13 teams.

Head coach Maura Waters-Ballard has no complaints for the Knights.

“The chemistry with this team is terrific,” she said. “They’re great friends and all have a great work ethic. They encourage each other, and I see these girls just getting better and better.”

Sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis, who led the Knights with a 74.08

season stroke average, stressed the importance of building team chemistry after the team’s first event, Sept. 8-9’s Bucknell Invitational.

Nearly two months later, she thinks the team met that goal and can become stronger in the spring.

“I think we’ve done a really good job with team bonding, really focusing on our own games and really trying to build up our potential,” Maxoutopoulis said. “But I think we have a lot we can still add. It’s exciting that there’s still so much more potential we can tap into.”

Maxoutopoulis is pleased with how she has progressed halfway through her sophomore campaign, and with good reason.

While posting the best stroke average of her young career, she claimed an individual title at the Lehigh Invitational on Oct. 21 and posted top-six finishes in every event. But Maxoutopoulis is hungry for more.

“As far as my personal standards, I feel like I’ve done a really good job with what I’ve been wanting to work on,” she said. “I know there’s a lot, though, that I want to work on this offseason, so going home to California and being able to be with my coach, I’ll be able to hone in on some skills and really develop the areas that I want to. I feel I’ll

be even stronger for the

spring season.”

Senior co-captain Brittany Weddell, who posted a

collegiate career-best 76.58 stroke average, was also near the top of Rutgers’ season scorecard. She also had a pair of top-five overall finishes in tournament play.

Freshmen Melanie Chambers and Samantha Moyal finished with averages of 80.42 and 81.67,

respectively. Senior co-captain Karen Cash ended her fall campaign where she left off in the spring, again producing an average of 82.

In light of their success, the Knights enter the offseason planning to cut down on inconsistencies and shortcomings in tournaments to put them over the top in the spring.

It starts with the addition of experienced personnel.

Rutgers will soon bring in a new assistant coach trained in the Titleist Performance Institute, universally considered the leading source for golf fitness, Waters-Ballard said.

“Starting [this] week, he’s going to be testing our swings for strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “And then we’re going to put individual workout programs in place based on those strengths and weaknesses. So this is the first time we’ve had someone working with us in this area. It’s going to be really exciting and beneficial for us.”

Mental and short games continue to be focal points of improvement for the team.

The Knights look to enhance their mental games through the consumption of books and DVDs by sports psychologist Bob Rotella, Waters-Ballard said.

She also has a plan in place for the freshmen to build on their physical skillsets.

“I’m going to focus some of the younger players on their touch around the greens, short game and a couple of swing adjustments to improve their basic fundamentals,” she said. “There are some areas that we know we can focus on to help bring us to the next level by the spring.”

Waters-Ballard is satisfied with the results this season and the gelling of the young team, but she believes it still has noticeable potential.

“I’m really looking forward to our offseason workouts,” she said. “We’ve targeted some areas where we need improvement and will get to work on those right away. I think the spring season is going to be very successful. We’ve learned a lot this fall, and we know what to work on and where to focus our energies.”

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