by Benny Benton
WILSON, N.C. – The Barton College women's golf team has been voted seventh in the annual Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches' Poll, the league announced Thursday.
Third-year head coach Ashley Leonard said the ranking is probably a fair assessment given her team's performance during the fall semester.
"I think that's about where we should be. I think that five, six, seven group is pretty close. We beat Belmont Abbey a couple of times and they beat us. To me, with 11 teams now in the conference, that's a good start for the preseason."
Leonard said when the team began the year back in August, her goal for the program was to average 325 per round. But in the opening tournament at Cutter Creek Golf Club in Kinston, "we played terrible and shot 329 the first day. Then the second day, we played decent and shot 316. So I'm thinking this group is way better than 325. I think 320 is more realistic.
"As we went through the season, we again had an injury to one of our better players. But at the end of the day, it's sports. You have to be able to get over that, and someone has to step up. I think we haven't even scratched the surface yet. These girls have a lot of potential."
One player who emerged over the fall was sophomore Kelsey Woodall. The Chester, Md., resident set a new career-low in every tournament of the fall semester, capped by a 78 in the final round of the semester at Salisbury Country Club.
"Kelsey has probably made the biggest improvement that you can see from a scoring standpoint and, if you ever see her on the golf course, just from a confidence standpoint," Leonard said. "She just goes about her business. But all the girls worked extremely hard this fall."
Limestone College, the three-time defending league champion, was once again ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll with 93 points. The Saints were followed by King University in second with 86 points and University of Mount Olive in third with 78.
Converse College trails closely behind UMO in fourth in with 76 points, followed by Erskine College in fifth with 70 points and Belmont Abbey College in sixth with 51.
Barton received 40 points in claiming seventh, and Pfeiffer University earned 35 points in taking the eighth spot. Rounding out the field were Southern Wesleyan University in ninth (34 points), North Greenville University in 10th (32 points) and Chowan University in 11th with 10 points. Chowan will be competing in the league for the first time as an associate member.
"We've had a couple of conversations in the first week and a half of practice about what they want to accomplish, what they think is realistic, and I still think for the spring, we can do 320," Leonard said. "And we can potentially get inside the top five in the conference. We played alongside Limestone (in the fall) at Cutter Creek. We were beating them after the first day, and hung in there the second day. I think if we had had a (solid) fourth score, we might have tied or even beaten them. That gave them confidence. Limestone is normally going to be a top 30 program nationally.
"I'm excited, and I think they are too. We're getting better, and that's the thing you have to look at. Sometimes they get impatient, but I think they know we can be a pretty good team by the end of the semester."
Barton will begin the spring season as the host team for the Barton Invitational at Kiawah in Kiawah Island, S.C., and will close the year as a co-host of the 2017 Conference Carolinas Championships at Cutter Creek Golf Club in Kinston, N.C.
|Conference Carolinas Women's Golf|
|2017 Preseason Coaches Poll|
|1.||Limestone College||93 (8)|
|2.||King University||86 (1)|
|3.||University of Mount Olive||78 (2)|
|6.||Belmont Abbey College||51|
|9.||Southern Wesleyan University||34|
|10.||North Greenville University||32|