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Rutgers harps on growth shown during fall season

<p>Senior Christina Paulsen wrapped up her final fall season with Rutgers. The Knights return to action next spring at the Edwin Watts Kiawah Island Classic on Feb. 27.</p>

Senior Christina Paulsen wrapped up her final fall season with Rutgers. The Knights return to action next spring at the Edwin Watts Kiawah Island Classic on Feb. 27.

That’s a wrap.

The Rutgers women’s golf team completed its fall season at the Rutgers Invitational on Oct. 16 and 17. 

The Scarlet Knights earned a sixth place finish at its host tournament played at the Rutgers University Golf Course. The golfers shot a 949 as a unit with a 325 in the first round, a 306 in the second round and a 318 in the third.

Playing on the Rutgers B-Team, senior co-captain Racquel Zurick posted the top scorecard for the Knights at the event last weekend. The West Trenton, New Jersey, native finished tied for seventh place in the field of 58 players. She shot a plus-seven, 78 in the first round, an eight over par, 79 in the second round and a three over par, 74 in the third round for a total mark of 231.

“I was happy with how I played this weekend,” Zurick said. “It was nice to come out here and shoot some decent rounds for the last home event ever. I’m happy with how I played for the most part, just looking forward to the spring and seeing what we all can do.”

The fall has proven to be a sound season for Rutgers. One word to sum up the autumn for the Knights might be "improvement" because it is visible of how much better this team has gotten from the end of last spring’s Big Ten Championships through this point in time.

Last year at the Big Ten Championships, Rutgers finished in 14th place in the event and had a few top-10 finishes throughout the year.

This fall has been completely different as the team consistently earned good finishes in nearly every tournament. The Knights have also been extremely competitive in all of its events and were able to hang with the several top collegiate golf programs.

“I think last year, we were shooting in the 70s,” said senior Gabrielle Sacheli. “But now when we’re competing and when we’re traveling, we’re pushing each other to play better and 75 is not good enough anymore. Seventy-five will probably get you in third position on the team of playing in a tournament. So we really push each other and it makes us play better.”

Rutgers kicked off the fall in Happy Valley at the Nittany Lion Invitational where the team secured fourth place with three Knights finishing in the top-25. Sophomore co-captain Emily Mills led the pack with a plus-four to pick up third place.

On Sept. 13, the golfers put forth one of their best outings of the season at the Diane Thomasen Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa. At the Finkbine Golf Course, Rutgers nearly defeated Big Ten foe Iowa at the Hawkeyes’ home course. The Knights put together a scorecard of 906 to finish in second place.

The Diane Thomasen Invitational gave Rutgers a huge surge of momentum going forward.

The team pushed its way up the leaderboard at the event from fifth place to second place. Senior Christina Paulsen paced her team, capturing 13th place with a 228 total score.

In Missouri, at the Johnie Imes Invitational, Rutgers had a record-setting performance. The team earned 12th place at the Club at Old Hawthorne by scoring an 893. The golfers set a program-record, 292 score in the second round of the event. Sacheli tied a personal best at the event with a 72 in the first round and finished in 38th place with a 222 scorecard.

Against rival Princeton, Rutgers continued its stellar play. On Oct. 4, the Knights shot a 633 at the Princeton Invitational. The women posted a 315 in the first round and a 318 in the second round. Mills, Paulsen and Sacheli had the top scores on the team. Mills hit a 155 to finish in eighth, Sacheli had a 157 to earn 16th place and Paulsen earned 20th, shooting a 160.

“I don’t know what happened,” Zurick said. “It’s really amazing to think that it’s the same group of girls and just what we’ve really done this year and overcome. I think a lot of it has to do with last year. We first got our coach and this is like the first year that we’re really like all together, all meshing … We all were on that wagon and I’m excited to see what we could do. It’s been awesome so far this year and I hope the spring is a lot better and we’ll see how far we can really go.”

In her two years with Rutgers, Williams has seen  growth and improvement in her players.

“The rankings just came out and we're 107th,” she said. “We finished last year 173rd. We have all six of our players, seven of our players that have seen playing time all have scoring averages below 80. When I arrived two years ago, all of our players had scoring averages above 80. To have that kind of growth with so many of the players has been terrific.”

Williams has also seen tremendous advancement in the program as a whole in recent years.

“The program has grown,” said Williams. “We’ve added a grass range and we’ve changed the way we practice and the focus of our practice. We’ve increased our schedule and really played a very competitive schedule this fall so I think from all levels, the women have put in extra time, they have put in the time over the summer to get better and to really meet the challenges of moving conferences and changing coaches and I applaud them for that.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s golf team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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