This season has been one of change, growth and overcoming hardship for the Vassar College women’s golf team. The team has had to contend with a coaching change and an almost completely new roster this year. The current team features just two returning members from last year, junior co-captains Angela Mentel and Aimee Dubois. Along with Mentel and Dubois, the team features returning senior Caitlin Bell, who was on JYA last year, two new freshmen and sophomore newcomer Emily Prince. But despite all these changes and difficulties, the team has managed to come out and continues to be competitive against some of the Northeast’s best teams with many Brewers vying for individual titles.
This past weekend, the Brewers traveled to Amherst College to compete for the Jack Leaman Invitational. The event was changed from the usual two-day competition to a shortened one-day event. They still managed to come out for a strong showing on Saturday. Vassar College was one of 10 teams and despite this being their second tournament of the spring and carrying a relatively inexperienced roster, the women came away with a seventh-place finish with some very strong scores. Bell posted a season best 83, tying for 14th place overall. Dubois was just a stroke behind at 84. Freshman Kristin Diep also posted an 84, lowering her scoring average to 85, second-best on the team. Fellow freshman Annie Hsu scored an 86, tying for 29th place overall. Prince fired an 88, continuing her strong play as of late and Mentel rounded out the Brewers’ scoring with an 89 for 39th place.
Mentel was proud of the way her team handled the shortening of the event and enjoyed the challenging course despite not coming away with the score she wanted. “[Our] team goals were to give our best during the one day event, after it got shortened. Our strategy had to shift a little because of the one day event. My individual goal was to enjoy the course and play my best. This [is] my favorite course that we play, and it proved challenging for me this past Saturday, but I hope that I can make the necessary adjustments for Liberty Leagues.”
The team will compete next weekend at the Liberty League Championships. For women’s golf, the league features Vassar College, William Smith, Wellesley, Union, NYU, St. Lawrence and Mt. Holyoke. The event will run for two days and is hosted by William Smith College. The event will take place at Clifton Springs Country Club in Clifton Springs, N.Y.
Looking ahead, Mentel emphasized how the team’s daily goals and commitment to one another have shown in their results, giving her optimism going into next weekend. “Our team goals for the season were to improve each day. We wanted to give our best to each tournament, and put in a lot of work over the winter in order to perform well over spring break. We had our first tournament over spring break, and were able to come out with a win. We are sure the hard work will pay off in the Liberty Leagues this season.”
Dubois was optimistic about Liberty Leagues but looked even further ahead into how this season’s improvement and experience will contribute down the line. “We’re looking forward to Liberty Leagues next weekend, which will be a great experience. We haven’t played the course it’s at, and the competition is pretty strong, but we’re looking to have a strong showing. Even more in the future, we’ll all work this summer on our playing and hit the ground running in September with practices and tournaments, ready to take on the 2015-2016 season. And as long as we continue to work and improve, I think our chances at winning Liberty Leagues and getting to the NCAAs next year are pretty good.”
Looking back at all the changes the Brewers have faced this year, it would’ve been easy to call it a rebuilding season and lower expectations accordingly. But the golf team has managed to take everything thrown their way in stride and continue excelling and pushing forward. Just a few weeks ago, Bell walked away with top medalist honors at the Wellesley Spring Break Invitational. The Brewers themselves walked away with a team title with a first place finish.
Dubois has been nothing but impressed with her team, especially without a clear set of expectations set up in the start of the year. “We had so many changes with players, coaches and structure of the program this year that we really didn’t have many concrete goals as a team. Obviously we wanted to do as best as we could every week, but we had to take it one week at a time and use past performances as baselines for future competitions. I really didn’t know what to expect from this group, but the strong work ethic of my teammates has pushed us to improve a lot since September…I’m really proud of the team’s play this week and this season [overall]. We’ve worked really hard through our fall season, winter strength and conditioning training and indoor practices, and now in the spring season. It’s paying off.”
Another factor Dubois cites is Head Coach Andy Jennings’ and Assistant Coach Anna Ausanio’s commitment to the program and increased rigor of the team’s training schedule. “Our coaches are fantastic. They’ve really worked at turning the VCWG program around, and it’s headed in a really positive direction. We have more practice times, more strength and conditioning sessions, and more indoor practices than previous years, but when everyone is excited to go and wants to dedicate time and effort to the team, it’s a good situation for everyone.”
Harsh weather conditions make it difficult for teams to get enough practice time. When teams begin practices for their season, most outdoor facilities are still covered in snow and ice. The teams must all vie for space and time within the Bays in Walker. This includes both men’s and women’s tennis, golf, and men’s and women’s lacrosse. In addition to that, men’s and women’s fencing are still practicing and competing in Walker, intramurals go on there and some of the fall teams hold open gyms or off season practices, depending on the time of year. With the long winter this year, the golf team had a difficult time getting outside to play.
Prince explained how finally being able to play and practice outside of the Bays has shown in the team’s and her own scores. “Obviously, with the tough winter, the conditions here have been difficult to play and practice on. We had much better conditions in Florida for our spring break trip, so our scores were better but I think we did our best as a team. I personally think I’ve have been striking the ball much better and it has been reflecting in my score.”
The winter has been another hardship this season’s team has had to overcome. But in terms of overcoming adversity and hardship, there is no one better on the team to ask than Prince. Prince was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma this season and competing for the Brewers has been a huge part of her recovery.
For Prince, golf and the Vassar College team have both been incredibly positive influences in her life and competing this year has been a triumphant experience. “This has been a difficult two years for me medically, but the support that I’ve received from the golf team has made a world of difference in my recovery. Being able to go outside and enjoy the beautiful courses of the Northeast while being able to represent Vassar is a dream come true and I am proud to be a part of VCWG…I spent last year doing chemo and radiation and golf helped me get back on my feet…During the off weeks of treatments, chemo especially, golf was something I really looked forward to being able to play because it meant I could get outside and enjoy the fresh air. That’s what I have come to especially love about golf, is appreciating the surroundings. My team was also extremely supportive and even wore violet ribbons (Hodgkin’s color) on their hats during the Vassar invitational last year. Having been really out of shape from all my dramatic weight loss and gain, being able to walk eight miles and play 36 holes in a weekend while carrying a 20 pound golf bag was definitely challenging, especially during the fall season, but this spring has been great as I’ve started to really get back to normalcy.”