Sunday, May 11, 2003

Better late than never for XU golfers

College update: Surge nets Muskies berth in NCAA

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It took the Xavier men's golf team three months to thaw out and get hot after a long, cold winter. And when it finally did, the NCAA rewarded it with a trip to sloppy, wet Seattle.

But none of the Musketeers is complaining. That doesn't exactly complement what they're trying to do.

At the Atlantic 10 Championships last week, Xavier regained the form that garnered national attention in the fall. And the Muskies did it just in time, storming back from an eight-shot deficit in the final round to win the tournament - and an NCAA Tournament berth - by seven strokes.

"In golf, sometimes it's hard to turn that corner, but the guys pulled it together and played a good round," coach Doug Steiner said. ". . . We knew that if we played a good final round, it would be like an eraser; it would erase any of the bad memories from the spring."

And there was plenty to forget.

Expectations were high for the Musketeers after tying for first at the Michigan Wolverine Invitational. They then finished third as hosts of the 18-team Provident Invitational, ending the fall season.

"We were playing outstanding golf. We were ranked as high as 54th in the country. We had a spectacular fall," Steiner said. "Then, in the spring, we kind of lost our confidence and saw a string of some bad golf."

"It was a long winter," senior Bryon Harger said. "We're the type of players that need a lot of preparation, and that just wasn't really possible. We got a late start and never got that confidence back."

When play resumed in March, the Musketeers were flat.

In the six tournaments leading to the A-10 Championships, their average finish was ninth out of 16 teams.

Every one of the six regular players saw his stroke average rise from the fall.

Then came the final round at the A-10s. Freshman Andy Pope finished second, pacing XU's 4-over 288.

"That final round was important, because it got us out of there as winners, but more importantly, it restored our confidence," Steiner said.

The Musketeers have been to the NCAA Tournament before - once before, in 2001, when they finished 19th in their 27-team region.

This time, however, the coach and players insist the team's attitude is different.

They insist a top-10 finish at the region and trip to the NCAA finals is a reachable goal.

"We've been there before. Now we want to get out (of regionals)," senior Tim Smith said. "Before it was just nice to be with the best teams in the country. Now, we want to make it to finals. It's just the next step."

It's a step for which Steiner has prepared his team.

"Now we have a better track record against the better teams in the country," he said. "I know now that they're confident that they can play well there. And we're deeper now from top to bottom."

The Musketeers leave Tuesday for Seattle, where they will play on the Washington National Golf Course in the West Region.

The three-round tournament runs Thursday through Friday.


• Beechwood graduate Billy Hopkins, a sophomore at Northern Kentucky, was an All-Great Lakes Valley Conference tennis selection after finishing the season 23-5 in singles competition and 22-8 in doubles.

• Mount St. Joseph pitcher Dennis McRoberts, a Fairfield graduate, was named Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference player of the week after improving to 8-1 on the season with a complete-game win over Hanover.

• Mount St. Joseph softball players Carrie Higgins, Annie Neumann and Kati Stroub were named All-HCAC performers. Mason graduate Steph Piontek, now at Hanover, was named the HCAC Freshman of the Year.

• University of Cincinnati volleyball coach Reed Sunahara and sophomore Julie DuPont have been chosen to represent the United States in the European Spring Cup in the Czech Republic.

• NKU baseball players Chris Osterkamp (La Salle) and Josh Perkins were named second-team All-GLVC.

• Mount Notre Dame product Stephanie Seibert, a basketball player at Emory University, was named to the University Athletic Association all-conference team as an honorable mention.

• NKU golfer Kim Keyer-Scott qualified as an individual for the NCAA Division II championships Wednesday-Saturday at Mission Inn Golf and Tennis Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.



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