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Women's college golf: 2022 spring conference previews

Stanford Athletics
Stanford Athletics

Winter break is over, classes are back in session and it’s time for more college golf. Here is a breakdown of the spring season for the Power 5 conferences and top mid-majors in women’s college golf:

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Championship info: April 14-17, The Reserve Golf Club, Pawleys Island, South Carolina

Recent champions: Duke (2021), Wake Forest (2019), Duke (2018), Duke (2017), Virginia (2016), Virginia (2015), Duke (2014)

Team rankings: Wake Forest (6), Virginia (7), Duke (18), Florida State (25), Virginia Tech (27), Miami (31), Louisville (32), Clemson (35), North Carolina (43), North Carolina State (63), Boston College (71), Notre Dame (79)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Amelia Williamson, Sr., Florida State (16); Erica Shepherd, Jr., Duke (19); Rachel Kuehn, Jr., Wake Forest (20); Virginia Bossi, Jr., Virginia (38); Beatrice Wallin, Sr., Florida State (50)

What to watch: Wake Forest hasn’t missed a beat as it’s plugged in a couple of new faces in freshman Carolina Lopez-Chacarra (75) and Maryland transfer Virunpat Olankitkunchai (101). The Demon Deacons won twice despite a poor fall from Lauren Walsh. Rachel Kuehn continues to be one of the best players in the country, as she posted a win and a runner-up in the fall. … Wake’s path to the ACC title got a little easier after Duke lost senior leader Gina Kim to the pros this month. Don’t count out the Blue Devils, though, as Erica Shepherd and sophomore Anne Chen had nice falls. There just won’t be much margin for error in Durham, as Duke finished T-5 at the Tar Heel Invite and third at the four-team East Lake Cup without Kim. … If not Duke, then it should be Virginia challenging Wake. Coach Ria Scott continues to turn the Cavaliers into a national contender, and Virginia showed its mettle with runner-up finishes in each of its first two events, including to Stanford at the Windy City. Virginia Bossi and freshman Amanda Sambach paced the Cavaliers last fall, but look for seniors Riley Smyth and Beth Lillie to have better springs and lead Virginia deep into the postseason. … Florida State didn’t have the best of falls, and the Seminoles capped the first half of the season with a disappointing 10th-place finish at the Landfall Tradition. But the good news is senior Beatrice Wallin decided to return for one final semester after earning her Symetra Tour card. … Virginia Tech posted a couple of third-place showings in the fall, but the Hokies need more behind senior Emily Mahar (two top-10s).

Pick to win: Wake Forest

Aneka Seumanutafa
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Big Ten

Championship info: April 22-24, Fox Chapel Golf Course, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Recent champions: Michigan State (2021), Ohio State (2019), Michigan State (2018), Michigan State (2017), Northwestern/Ohio State (2016), Northwestern/Ohio State (2015), Michigan State/Ohio State (2014)

Team rankings: Michigan (10), Illinois (28), Purdue (37), Michigan State (40), Ohio State (46), Northwestern (52), Maryland (59), Nebraska (72), Wisconsin (73), Penn State (85), Minnesota (97), Indiana (128), Iowa (130), Rutgers (135)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Hailey Borja, Soph., Michigan (21); Crystal Wang, Sr., Illinois (34); Aneka Seumanutafa, Jr., Ohio State (35); Ashley Lau, Jr., Michigan (36); Kan Bunnabodee, Jr., Purdue (66)

What to watch: After a strong fall in which it won its home event and finished runner-up at the Landfall Tradition, Michigan is set up nicely to win its first Big Ten title. Four Wolverines are ranked in the top 130 of Golfstat, including Hailey Borja, Ashley Lau and Mikaela Schulz (130), who combined for six top-10s in four events. … Illinois was a popular Big Ten champion pick last season before finishing ninth. The Illini didn’t crack the top 3 in any of their five fall starts, but Crystal Wang is one of the top players in the conference, and we saw how Kate Smith led Nebraska to an AQ last year. … Purdue looked good in a third-place finish at Medinah, where it finished a shot behind co-winners Georgia and Louisville, but there also isn’t ideal depth behind Kan Bunnabodee and senior Inez Wanamarta. … Michigan State started its fall with three straight 12th-place showings, but a third at the Landfall Tradition (a spot ahead of Wake) is likely a better indication of the Spartans’ potential. Valery Plata tied for 10th in that event and remains the team’s leader, entering the spring fresh off a win at the Patriot Women’s All-America. If you’re looking for a dark-horse contender out of the Big Ten, look no further. … NCAA sanctions kept Ohio State out of the postseason last year and longtime head coach Therese Hession retired earlier this month, but there is still a bright spot in Columbus in junior Aneka Seumanutafa, a potential U.S. Curtis Cupper.

Pick to win: Michigan

Oklahoma State
OSU Athletics

Big 12

Championship info: April 22-24, The Club at Houston Oaks, Houston, Texas

Recent champions: Oklahoma State (2021), Texas (2019), Texas (2018), Texas (2017), Oklahoma State (2016), Baylor (2015), Oklahoma (2014)

Team rankings: Oklahoma State (2), Texas (11), Baylor (16), TCU (19), Texas Tech (30), Iowa State (33), Oklahoma (47), Kansas (82), Kansas State (107)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Caley McGinty, Jr., Oklahoma State (2); Rina Tatematsu, Soph., Oklahoma State (9); Sara Kouskova, Sr., Texas (11); Sabrina Iqbal, Sr., TCU (12); Isabella Fierro, Jr., Oklahoma State (26)

What to watch: Oklahoma State coach Greg Robertson has turned the Cowgirls into the clear-cut favorites in the Big 12 in just a few seasons. Oklahoma State won all four fall events while Caley McGinty added two individual wins of her own. Sophomores Rina Tatematsu and Maddison Hinson-Tolchard continue to develop into elite talents while the Cowgirls have a total of seven players ranked in the top 250 of Golfstat. …  Texas won three Big 12 titles in a row before Oklahoma State won last year, but the Longhorns struggled to contend during a tough fall slate, not finishing better than fifth in four events. Still, this team has lots of talent, mainly Sara Kouskova. Junior Sophie Guo just needs to find the form that she had before COVID-19 knocked her out for much of last spring. … After winning each of its first five tournaments last season, Baylor won just once this past fall. However, there is a lot to like about the Bears’ young core behind senior Gurleen Kaur – sophomores Rosie Belsham (73) and Britta Snyder (114) and freshman Antonia Matte (111). … TCU is back in the Big 12 conversation thanks to senior Sabrina Iqbal, who posted four top-11 finishes in the fall.

Pick to win: Oklahoma State

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Championship info: April 18-20, Eugene (Oregon) Country Club

Recent champions: USC (2021), USC (2019), UCLA (2018), UCLA (2017), USC (2016), Arizona (2015), Stanford (2014)

Team rankings: Stanford (1), Oregon (4), Arizona (14), UCLA (15), Arizona State (20), USC (23), Oregon State (36), Washington (41), California (42), Washington State (55), Colorado (58)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Rose Zhang, Fr., Stanford (1); Cindy Kou, Fr., USC (4); Aline Krauter, Sr., Stanford (10); Tze-Han Lin, Sr., Oregon (17); Brooke Seay, Jr., Stanford (18)

What to watch: Forget best team in the Pac-12 this season, Stanford might be the best women’s team ever. The Cardinal won all four of their fall events by a combined 41 shots, and they did so while missing several stars at different points in the season. The most impressive team win was at the Pac-12 Preview, where Stanford beat USC by four shots despite playing without top-ranked amateur Rose Zhang, third-ranked amateur Rachel Heck and talented freshman Caroline Sturdza. Zhang won each of her three starts while Heck, who won the Annika Award and five titles as a freshman, only posted one top-10 in two fall starts, but figures to find her groove this spring on a squad that currently boasts four top-25 amateurs in the world. … Stanford’s dominance overshadowed a strong fall by Oregon, which won once and had three other top-5s in elite events while senior Heather Lin closed with back-to-back top-5s. Not that the Ducks were perfect – sophomore Cynthia Lu won the Mason Rudolph before failing to post another top-20 finish and junior Brianna Chacon had only one top-10 finish in four starts. If Oregon cleans some things up, NCAA match play isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. … Arizona was third at the Pac-12 Preview, but now the Wildcats must replace the Hou sisters, Yu-Sang and Vivian, who earned their LPGA cards and turned pro last month. Freshmen Carolina Melgrati and Lilas Pinthier are future stars, though. … UCLA was a popular dark-horse pick, but it was a mixed bag in the fall with two runner-up finishes but also a fifth at the Pac-12 Preview. Redshirt freshman Allesia Nobilio is finally playing college golf and posted two top-5s, though she missed the Annika Intercollegiate and Pac-12 Preview. Junior Emma Spitz, meanwhile, was slow to start before placing second to cap the fall in Hawaii. If freshman Zoe Campos can build on four top-20s from the fall, the Bruins will contend for a match-play berth at Grayhawk. … Arizona State was hit hard when Linn Grant decided to turn pro before the fall, and the Sun Devils posted no top-5s. However, freshman Calynne Rosholt had a T-5 at Stanford’s event and didn’t finish worse than T-19 in three stroke-play starts, which helped soften the blow. … If not for Zhang, we’d be talking about USC’s Cindy Kou as the best freshman in the country after her three fall top-10s. There is some unknown at the bottom of the lineup after the departure of Alexa Melton, who left the team after the fall, and the health of Malia Nam, who had hip surgery in August and didn’t log a tournament round, but the arrival of hotshot freshman Amari Avery this spring could be the spark USC needs.

Pick to win: Stanford

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Championship info: April 13-17, Greystone Golf and Country Club (Legacy), Hoover, Alabama

Recent champions: Auburn (2021), Ole Miss (2019), Arkansas (2018), Florida (2017), Alabama (2016), Texas A&M (2015), Vanderbilt (2014)

Team rankings: South Carolina (3), Florida (5), Arkansas (8), Alabama (9), Auburn (12), Texas A&M (17), LSU (21), Ole Miss (24), Georgia (29), Kentucky (34), Vanderbilt (38), Mississippi State (39), Tennessee (76), Missouri (96)

Midseason All-Conference Team: Benedetta Moresco, Soph., Alabama (5); Ingrid Lindblad, Jr., LSU (6); Hannah Darling, Fr., South Carolina (7); Auston Kim, Sr., Vanderbilt (8); Julia Johnson, Sr., Ole Miss (13)

What to watch: This year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for South Carolina, but the Gamecocks brought in two freshmen and two transfers to remain the top team in the SEC with impressive wins at the Annika Intercollegiate and Landfal Tradition. Freshman Hannah Darling has been the standout with three top-10s, but two players – Kennesaw State transfer Worapitcha Anudit and freshman Louise Rydqvist – were top-100 players and FAU transfer Justin Fournand won the individual title at the Landfall. … Florida was a nice surprise last fall with no wins but four top-3s and six players ranked in 167th or better by Golfstat. Junior Annabell Fuller might not have notched a top-10, but sophomore Maisie Filler and junior Jackie Lucena took over with three combined top-10s. Taylor Roberts also adds depth as a transfer from Florida State this spring. … Arkansas won twice in the fall, but the Razorbacks now face the monumental task of replacing senior Brooke Matthews, who turned pro earlier this month to join the LPGA. … Alabama is back in the SEC title conversation thanks to Benedetta Moresco (four top-13s, including a win) and Polly Mack’s decision to return for one final semester. The Tide capped the fall with a 10-shot win over Florida at The Ally. … For the second straight fall, Auburn battled injuries, illness and inconsistency. Meghan Schofill and Anna Foster formed a dynamic one-two punch with five combined top-20s in just three stroke-play events, but Mychael O’Berry struggled and Kaleigh Telfer didn’t play at all in the fall. The good news is the Tigers have depth and have proven they can shake troubles like they did last year in winning the SEC title and again making NCAA match play. … Coach Gerrod Chadwell has made an immediate impact in College Station, leading Texas A&M to three top-5s. The Aggies have been led by Blanca Fernandez Garcia-Poggio and her four top-20s. … LSU’s Ingrid Lindblad was her dominant self with four top-10s, including a win at the Stephens Cup, but the Tigers finished outside the top 5 twice in four starts. However, a win at the Stephens Cup and a strong winter by Latanna Stone (wins at the Dixie and Orlando International Amateur) offer some hope that LSU can bounce back this spring. … Speaking of fall struggles, Ole Miss didn’t beat more than half the field in any of its four events. The reigning national champion also saw sophomore Smilla Sonderby leave the team and just three players finish the fall ranked in the top 250 of Golfstat. Senior Julia Johnson shined, winning the Annika medal and posting four top-20s, but the Rebels have some concerns, especially at the end of the lineup, where often-injured Ellen Hume and inconsistent Andrea Lignell will need to step up this spring if Ole Miss is to defend its national title. … Georgia has the talent; it just has yet to really fire. The Bulldogs have looked either really good (T-1 at Medinah) or really poor (13th at Stanford).

Pick to win: Auburn

Other conferences

Top teams: San Jose State (13), UCF (22), BYU (26), Furman (44), UNLV (45), Coastal Carolina (48), East Tennessee State (49), Sam Houston State (50)

Top players: Tiffany Arafi, Sr., Coastal Carolina (3); Natasha Andrea Oon, Sr., San Jose State (15); Sarah Bell, Jr., Oral Roberts (30); Letizia Bagnoli, Sr., Florida Atlantic (39); Antonia Malate, Sr., San Jose State (42); Audrey Tan, Soph., North Texas (46); Kajsa Arwefjall, Jr., San Jose State (47); Jana Melichova, Sr., Old Dominion (55); Camille Banzet, Soph., UCF (60); Emily Hawkins, Jr., Campbell (68)