The Red Wolves are ready to put the growing pains behind them once and for all.
The Indiana University East women's golf team tees off its fourth NAIA season March 1. After three seasons of growing pains, the Red Wolves possess their most reliable roster yet and appear poised to produce the program's most consistent results to date.
The team's biggest question mark as the season begins? Injuries. Several IU East players sustained health setbacks during the offseason, including rotator cuff soreness, a wrist injury sustained in an automobile-bicycle accident, and knee damage that required surgery.
A roster of five full-time players leaves little margin for error. Or recuperation time.
"Even though our players are resilient, the minor nagging effects of some injuries could hold us back," says IU East coach Von Ebeling. "This spring season when the hurting starts, we must toughen up and persevere through the pain barrier in order to finish out the season and score to the best of our ability."
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?
IU East was able to field a full team for just one of its five spring tournaments. The Red Wolves were unable to compete at the KIAC/NAIA National Championships Qualifying Tournament.
Jordyn Sparks, redshirt junior
Jordyn was an all-conference honoree in 2011 and returns to the Red Wolves roster after a redshirt season.
"She returns to the team more skilled and has the passion and experience to move our team forward," Ebeling says. "She is long off of the drive and could surprise the field of teams we will play."
Asia Mathis, redshirt sophomore
Asia has more collegiate golf experience than anyone else on the Red Wolves' roster.
"She has progressively lowered her average, but still needs to shave about ten strokes off her average for us to make a run at winning the conference tournament," Ebeling says.
Kristin Smith, sophomore
Kristin played in six tournaments during the 2012 spring season and broke 100 for the first time during the fall season.
"Kristin now knows there is nothing to fear and plays with confidence," Ebeling says. "Her style brings fun and excitement to her teammates and opponents at the golf course. She strikes the ball straight off the tee consistently and is slowly starting to improve her short game and scores."
Von Ebeling, head coach
Coach Ebeling is in his fourth year as head coach of the IU East men's and women's golf teams. IU East's golfers have earned seven all-conference awards, 10 academic all-conference honors and two national Champions of Character team awards during Coach Ebeling's tenure.
Shawna Phelps, freshman
Shawna played four years of varsity golf at Shelbyville (Ind.) High School and helped the Bears reach the state meet in 2009. She posted IU East's best score in three fall meets.
"She is eager to get back out on the course because she felt she could have scored better during the fall season," Ebeling says. "With the freshman jitters gone, she is poised to go challenge the various golf courses and make an impact. In high school, she gained experience playing at the state level and knows what the big tournament atmosphere is like."
Bridgette Moystner, freshman
Bridgette played golf at Winchester Community High School and posted IU East's best score at the Red Wolves' final fall tournament.
"Bridgette is more important to the team than I think she may realize," Ebeling says. "She played steady for us during the fall season. Her scores were consistent and she played free of injury. Like her teammates, she will need to shave a few strokes off her average by the end of the regular season to be ready for our conference tournament."
THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH
* The numbers game. IU East struggled to field a full roster for its spring schedule during the program's first three seasons. However, the 2013 spring roster appears stocked with reliable student-athletes, and the Red Wolves should be able to post a team score at their their spring events.
* Grueling rehab. A schedule that includes three two-day, 36-hole tournaments will hasten the recovery process for the players who sustained injuries during the offseason.
* The traveling pack. IU East will play all five of its spring events on the road.
THREE EVENTS TO WATCH
April 2 at the Ohio Northern University Tri-Match - This event will bring good neighborly competition between IU East, Ohio Northern and Northwestern Ohio to Lima, Ohio. The tri-match is an opportunity for the Red Wolves to win an event against familiar competition.
April 5 and 6 at the University of Saint Francis Spring Invitational and April 12 and 13 at the Indiana Wesleyan University Spring Invitational - Both tournaments are two-day, 36-hole events. Coach Ebeling is viewing both tournaments in tandem to see how the team responds to playing multiple rounds in preparation for ...
April 22 and 23 at the KIAC/NAIA National Championships Qualifying Tournament - The longest bus ride in the history of the IU East women's golf program will lead the Red Wolves to a combined Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference/NAIA National Championship Qualifying tournament in Athens, Ala. This will be the first appearance by a full IU East team at the women's KIAC tournament and also the first IU East appearance in an NAIA National Championship qualifying tournament. If an IU East golfer is medalist at this event, she will advance to the NAIA Women's Golf National Championship at Wilderness Ridge Golf Club in Lincoln, Neb., on May 21-24.
THREE MILESTONES IN REACH
* IU East could start the season with the program's first win against an NCAA Division I opponent. The Red Wolves tee off the season March 1 at NCAA Division I program Tennessee State University.
* The Red Wolves have a realistic shot at breaking all of the program's school records for best team and individual scores.
* IU East could add to the program's roster of all-conference honorees, and also should post a team score at a KIAC tournament for the first time.
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