TCU Women's Golf Preps for Spring 2005
Jan. 20, 2005
To bring the TCU Horned Frog women's golf team back to a position of national prominence, a few things needed to be established.
First, a team motto: a reminder that second place is not bad, but not as good as the next level; a mantra to motivate the team off its collective laurels. The Frogs needed something to inspire motivation, something that expressed that they were not content with what they had, something that "raised the bar."
"This is the team that wants to leave a positive impact on future teams," Head Coach Angie Ravaioli-Larkin explains. "It goes back to being stagnant for a couple years in ranking and in play. This is the team that wants to advance to the national championship level."
Next, a geometric shape: tangible evidence of the team's collective unity and force. The engineering major of the team (sophomore Camille Blackerby) proposed the triangle. Bridges are made with triangles as the support, she argued. The shape doesn't bend or break. Each part of the team, each player, has a place to make up in that triangle like a puzzle.
"This year's team has really developed a strong sense of accountability," Coach Ravaioli-Larkin says. "The work the conditioning staff (Travis Reust) has done with the athletes has really taught them how to count on each other and how to hold each other responsible. They are not afraid to speak up and point out accountability - to step on one another's toes, if it comes to it."
Then some goals had to be identified. TCU women's golf has not been to the NCAA championship in four years and that would be the main goal in the 2004-05 season, but the team remains grounded in its ambitions.
"Ultimately, we want to get to the final stage, but we don't want to put the cart before the horse," Coach Ravaioli-Larkin comments. "We want a very good showing altogether, starting with winning one tournament at a time. We want to treat each event as if it is postseason play, to treat each as if it was April and May. We want constant improvement."
Also on the list is to win the final Conference USA tournament the Frogs play before joining the Mountain West Conference in the 2005-06 season. Then the team has its sights set on winning NCAA Regionals, but as Coach Ravaioli-Larkin points out, "that is secondary to playing awesome and advancing to the national championship.
"I really feel we're on the verge of some great things," she continues. "We've had some really good seasons, but I think this year's team is a lot deeper than other years'. The players are so much more experienced compared to last year's tournament teams, which consisted of one senior, four freshmen, and a sophomore. All of last year's freshmen learned a lot from all the playing time and are a lot more mature for the experience."
The Horned Frogs raise the bar from a solid base of collegiate knowledge, starting with the lone senior on the team, D'Rae Ward. After missing her junior spring season due to a wrist injury, the 2003 C-USA medalist is back and ready for more titles. Coach Ravaioli-Larkin elaborates, "I saw D'Rae step up in the off-season and really take a leadership role. She's got a semester under her belt after the semester out and I think she's ready now. I've seen her really go above and beyond off the course, getting her body and mind in the right shape."
Coach Ravaioli-Larkin also sees Traci Robison, the only junior, as a difference-maker. "I see her as having a very positive impact on the team," the coach says.
"Yes, we're young as far as age," she comments, "but I still see maturity in the younger players. Even the freshmen have a little deeper experience on a higher level, along with the sophomores' experience from last year. All of the sophomores games have matured to another level. They know what conference and regionals are like. I've seen them come into their own."
The sophomores pack a returning punch: Camille Blackerby is a Conference USA first-team and all-freshman team selection from 2003-04. Catherine Matranga grabbed the best Horned Frog finish of the fall with her first top-ten finish by placing fourth in the Lady Paladin Invitational. Elin Emanuelsson sunk the team's only eagle in the 2003-04 C-USA Tournament and improves steadily with each round, as does Stacey Bieber. Jane Fischer rounds out the very competitive sophomore crew.
The freshmen sport impressive resumes. Carrie Morris and Elisa Gomez each showed promise in their collegiate debuts this past fall. Angela Akins and Megan Sakamoto also keep the returners on their toes in the in-house battle to compete at tournaments.
After four years of competition with the Frogs, TCU lost Brooke Tull as she moved on to the LPGA.
"Anytime you lose an all-American, it obviously impacts the team," Coach Ravaioli-Larkin remarks. "But maybe that's why the younger players have brought up their game. They've really had to step up and fill the void. It hurts to lose that great of a player, but while she was here she taught so much to the rest of the team and I think the players benefited from her influence. D'Rae wants to step up and earn her honors too. I look for some pretty good things from her this spring."
To help the Frogs raise the bar, Coach Ravaioli-Larkin is experimenting with a new branch of coaching to complement her already effective method. "I'm trying to incorporate more of a silent coach into my coaching style," she says. She wants her influence to be felt more than necessarily heard. "I want to try my best to take the best squad to each tournament. I want to be a more hands-on coach in that way."
The coaching, the experience, and the youth add up to one version of the TCU women's golf triangle. Each element, chosen purposely to guide the Frogs into action, will form the shape of the Horned Frogs' future.
Feb. 21-23, 2005: Puerto Rico Invitational