Only eight teams advanced out the NCAA West Regional women’s golf tournament earlier this month in Tempe, Ariz.
After a rough second round, UNLV found itself 18th in the 21-team field, having followed a respectable 11-over 299 in the first round with a 25-over 313.
With one round to play, the Rebels’ chances of advancing to the NCAA Championships had evaporated. But you wouldn’t have known it from the way coach Missy Ringler’s lineup responded.
UNLV shot 5-over 293 in the last round, the seventh-best score of the day, moving up two spots to 16th and impressing Ringler in the process.
“I’m so proud of the girls for bouncing back,” she said. “It’s so hard to play on Saturday afternoon when you know you’re out of the running. So that’s always great to see them respond like that.”
Ringler said she felt the first round, after which UNLV was tied for 13th, was a good enough start if her squad could have followed up stronger.
“If we could have held on a bit tighter after the first round, we would have had a good opportunity to make it,” she said. “The second round just killed us — we played in the afternoon, it was very hot, and we were a little bit sluggish.”
Ringler had hoped for a little more success at the top of her lineup from junior Natasha Krishna and sophomore Therese Koelbaek. Koelbaek ended up leading UNLV, tying for 55th individually at 9-over 225, and Krishna tied for 71st at 229 — but both came around on the final day, with Koelbaek shooting even-par 72 and Krishna matching her first-round 75.
In between was sophomore Alejandra Guacaneme, who also shot 72 in the final round and tied for 66th.
“You’ve got to have your No. 1 and No. 2 just bringing it every time,” Ringler said. “We just have to understand that and learn from it, and I think Therese and Natasha will. And I know Natasha, being a senior next season, will want to work as hard as possible to get back to nationals.
“You can’t take anything away from what we accomplished this season, and they’re excited about what we’ll be able to do next season.”
As they should be. Eight of 10 golfers return for Ringler, including her entire starting five, plus she’s got a solid incoming freshman in England’s Ellis Keenan. And even though golf tends to be an individual sport, she said her squad is as tight-knit as any she’s coached in seven years at UNLV, which was a plus this year and will be even more beneficial next season.
“This year’s team is probably one of the closest I’ve ever coached, and I see that being the same for next year,” she said. “But it’s still very competitive when you’re trying to make the (starting) squad. Our (Nos.) 4, 5 and 6 golfers are gonna have to work really hard this summer.”
That kind of depth should help the Rebels build on a season in which they won two tournaments and were in the top five in five additional events.
“I think, quite honestly, that next year’s 10 players are deeper than this year’s team. And this year’s team was the deepest we’ve ever had,” said Ringler, whose teams have reached the NCAA Championships three times. “So definitely, this could be one of the best teams we’ve had here.”