With a mix of groomed veterans and talented newcomers, the Texas Tech University women's golf team eagerly awaits the upcoming spring season. And for good reason:
* Tech returns four of the five golfers who played in last season's NCAA West Regional and Big 12 Conference Championship.
* The Red Raiders were ranked 19th in the final fall rankings, which found five Big 12 squads among the top 25.
* Texas Tech features the two highest ranked golfers -- Brooke Lowrance and Priscillia Hunt -- in the Big 12 after the 1997 fall season.
* Tech is building a women's golf program of national caliber, considering the Red Raiders have advanced to the NCAA Regionals four times in the last five years.
Head coach Jeff Mitchell's eighth year at Texas Tech finds the program with talent and ability. More important, the current squad is eager to succeed in the Big 12 Conference and nationally in the NCAA.
Tech again faces a challenging schedule, beginning with the Pioneer Electric Bruin Class in February. The Red Raiders will also travel to the LSU-Fairwood Invitational, and the Utah-Dixie Classic before the Big 12 Conference Championship on the demanding University of Oklahoma Golf Course. This season, perennial national power Stanford hosts the NCAA West Regional, while Wisconsin will serve as the site for the NCAA Championships.
Last season, Tech finished sixth in the first-ever Big 12 Championships and concluded the season with another appearance in the NCAA West Regional.
Rived up from a fast finish during the fall campaign, Texas Tech has high hopes for the upcoming tournament slate that will hopefully end with an opportunity at the NCAA Women's Golf Championships.
"Fall 1997 was one of the most successful seasons on record at Texas Tech, Mitchell said. "After an average start, the team started making waves."
Texas Tech finished among the top six in four of its five events during the fall. The Red Raiders placed third, fourth twice, and sixth during a fall schedule that found the team facing some of the country's best teams.
Led by Lowrance's steady play, Texas Tech finished fourth at the Big 12 Fall Preview, sixth at Stanford's Intercollegiate, and third at the Diet Coke-Roadrunner Invitational.
Mitchell has a balanced mix of veterans and underclassmen in his program, giving him a good feel for the present and a bright look to the future. This season, four golfers -- senior Kristin Kight, juniors Beth Covington and Lowrance and sophomore Alana Soliz -- return with the experience of playing in the Big 12 Conference and NCAA West Regional events. Three seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and one freshmen make up the current roster that awaits a four-tournament spring schedule leading up to the NCAA West Regional and the NCAA Championships in May.
"We have the deepest and most competitive team we have ever had," Mitchell said. "That depth will most likely provide the incentive everyone needs to be ready when the time comes.
"It has been a great learning experience for the entire team. I've had a difficult time figuring out which combination of five would provide the spark to get the best results."
Texas Tech features one of the up-and-coming talents in women's golf in Lowrance (Snyder, Texas). She finished among the top 10 four times last fall. For her performance, she was ranked as the highest Big 12 golfer (23rd) in the final fall rankings.
She finished with a team-best 78.3 stroke average last season. Lowrance was Tech's best finisher seven times last season. She tied for ninth at the Big 12 Women's Championship and was second at the prestigious Susie Maxwell Berning Classic at Oklahoma.
Texas Tech also boasts experience with its other upper classmen. Senior Kristin Kight (Odessa, Texas) is the most experienced collegiate golfer on the 1997-98 Tech squad. She and Lowrance are the only two golfers back who played in every event last season. Fellow senior Amy Marsh (San Angelo, Texas) played in three events during the fall.
Junior Beth Covington (Sonora, Texas) is one of Tech's most improved golfers on the '97-98 team. Covington, who had a strong freshman season, hopes to regain the form of that rookie campaign. She tied for second last season as a sophomore at the Chip'N Club Invitational at Nebraska.
If talent among the underclassmen is any indication of what the future holds for the Texas Tech women's golf program, then the Red Raiders are in good hands. Led by freshman Priscillia Hunt(Phoenix, Ariz.), who made an immediate impact on the Tech program during the fall, the Red Raiders are eagerly anticipating the future. Hunt began her collegiate career with a tie for first in the Jeannine McHaney Memorial in Lubbock. She was ranked second nationally among Big 12 golfers to only teammate Lowrance. Hunt was ranked No. 31 after the fall season.
Sophomore Alana Soliz (Lubbock, Texas) battled her way into significant playing time last season, earning a spot on the Big 12 Conference Tournament and NCAA West Regional travel squads.
Mitchell expects sophomore Jamie Vannoy (Sandy, Ore.), who previously played at Arizona, to be among the most consistent golfers on this year's team.
Sophomore Heather Wrede (Lake Forest, Ill.) is probably the hardest worker on the team. Her diligence has paid off in the early juncture of her career and could result in her seeing more playing time.
Sophomore Julie McMahon(San Angelo, Texas) was redshirted last season after transferring from Arkansas.