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The Daily Tar Heel

Spring Sports - UNC Golfers Anticipate Challenging Season

Instead the team placed third in the ACC and 17th in the NCAA Eastern Regionals to cap off a season of steady improvement.

Although this season began much the same as the last, UNC coach Sally Austin hopes her team's story will have a different ending this May.

Once again, the Tar Heels improved constantly throughout the fall. They finished eighth out of 12 teams in the Dodge ACC/SEC Invitational, the first competition of the season, at 92-over-par.

One month later at the Lady Paladin Invitational, the Tar Heels placed fourth at 32-over-par.

"We had an average start," said freshman Ashley Prange, who leads the team with a 76.67 scoring average. "It should have been better."

Shelley McKevitt echoed that sentiment.

"We had some good performances," said McKevitt, a junior. "It just didn't all go together."

The team is anticipating stiff competition this spring. Duke and Wake Forest, which finished 1-2 in the ACC tournament last season, continued to be strong competitors.

N.C. State, in its first season of varsity competition, and Maryland, in its second, might also be contenders, Austin said.

"There's a lot of good competition in the East," she said.

The Tar Heels will face much of that competition in their first spring tournament in Gainesville, Fla. Austin also expects the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic to draw a highly competitive field.

Austin tries to earn an edge in those competitive tournaments by emphasize the importance of short game in North Carolina's practices.

"I want these girls to understand that any person that wins a golf tournament wins not because they hit 18 greens and close to the hole," she said. "They win because they get it up and down when they have to."

In addition to team goals, each player has her own individual aspirations. Britta Olson, a junior, said she is trying to add distance to her drives and lower her score.

Olson, who played in eight of 10 tournaments last season, also said she is hoping to participate more and help UNC make it to the NCAA tournament.

Sophomore Abby Spector said she wants her team to be ready to compete and win, especially against Duke, which has won five consecutive ACC titles.

"Obviously we want to make a good showing and hopefully do well at regionals since we're hosting them," said Spector, who tied for sixth place at the ACC tournament last year.

If it makes it to the NCAA tournament, UNC can expect to perform well.

The team boasts top-25 finishes in the three NCAA tournaments it has participated in during Austin's seven years as the Tar Heels' coach.

"These players are working hard and that hard work will pay off," Austin said. "I'm excited about our possibilities."

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