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1 May 2007
Al Muskewitz: "JSU Women in NCAA Field"

Al Muskewitz
Sports Writer
Anniston Star

The Jacksonville State women’s golf team is headed to Louisiana for its third straight NCAA regional appearance, and head coach James Hobbs figures it’s time they made a splash.

The Gamecocks were tabbed as the 20th seed in the East Region, to be played at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La., May 10-12. They are paired with No. 19 Western Carolina and No. 20 Jackson State, a team they played with in their Division I regional debut at Florida two years ago.

In going to Baton Rouge, the JSU women will be on the same golf course with Auburn (No. 3) and Alabama (No. 7) for the first time. Birmingham-Southern also is in the regional.

Top-ranked Duke is the No. 1 seed.

“Any time you play with Duke, you’re in the best field in the country,” Hobbs said Monday after taking the announcement on a conference call in the Coxwell Room of the JSU Fieldhouse. “I’m surprised they didn’t send us back to the Central, but this will be a good place for us to go play … This is probably the best place we could play.”

Their other possible destinations were Michigan or Utah.

Both of the Gamecocks’ first two trips to the regionals ended badly. Inclement weather ruined their debut experience at Florida, where they finished 20th. Last year, they had trouble on the last day at Texas A&M and finished 19th.

Both performances came after strong showings in the regular season and the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. This year, they led the OVC Tournament wire-to-wire and won by 16 shots.

All five of their players posted top 10 finishes, with freshman OVC Player of the Year Manuela Tarazona, sophomore Portia Abbott and junior Mercedes Huarte going 2-3-4. Sophomore Alexandra Espinosa and freshman Ashley Cox of Oxford tied for 10th.

The Gamecocks know it will take that kind of consistency to have a chance to take the next step.

“We’ve gone two straight years and have played no where near what our capabilities were or what we have done during the regular season and conference championship,” Hobbs said. “What I want to do now is play above our capabilities and I want to play above what we played in our regular season and during our conference championship.

“That’s what we’ve got to get our girls to think they can do … It’s time for us to go and make a statement that we deserve to be there.”

But once again, the assignment will be tough. Only the top eight teams advance to the nationals in Daytona Beach May 22-25. The Gamecocks’ region has 10 of the top 25 teams in the Golfstat head-to-head rankings and 12 of the top 30 in the Sagarin-based Golfweek ratings.

JSU is ranked 107 in the Golfweek poll and 97 in Golfstat.

But they also have three players with NCAA regional experience so the awe factor shouldn’t be a factor at all.

“I know we can do by far better; I know that for a fact,” said Huarte, who’ll be making her third trip to the regionals. “It’s about minimizing mistakes and we’ve got a team that knows how to minimize mistakes now. We know how to work it now. I think that’s going to be a key.”

About Al Muskewitz

Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State University sports teams for The Anniston Star.

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