Two big pieces to the Idaho women’s golf team are gone this season.
Leilanie Kim and Kaitlyn Oster usually led the squad last season, but they have no eligibility left as they were seniors in the spring.
But Idaho coach Lisa Johnson doesn’t expect the team to drop off from last season.
“I think we’ll be a lot better this year,” Johnson said. “I think we’re deeper. Our returners are playing very well. They came back looking extremely good, shooting lower numbers and then our freshmen will definitely add to the mix and help us improve.”
Senior Cassie McKinley thinks Idaho can reach the level Kim and Oster helped boost the team to last season.
“They were pretty much our first and second players,” McKinley said. “But I think we can still do just as good, if not better. They were really good players and it’s hard to lose them but it kind of makes everyone realize ‘OK, you lose two, you got to step it up and get to be at that level, if not better.'”
The Vandals open the season at the Ptarmigan Fall Invitational Monday in Fort Collins, Colorado. The invite concludes Tuesday.
Freshman Sophie Hausmann, sophomore Kendall Gray, junior Amy Hasenoehrl and seniors Kristin Strankman and McKinley will fill the five starting spots at the Ptarmigan Fall Invite.
“Our big goal is that we can manage our emotions because it’s the first event and typically everyone’s a little bit more excited and ready to go and wants to go prove themselves,” Johnson said. “We’re going to really work on trying to keep our emotions steady.”
Hausmann will make her collegiate golf debut Monday, but Johnson expects her to play the way she’s capable of and not have those freshman struggles. Johnson said Hausmann has played in larger golf events than the one that will take place in Fort Collins.
Strankman was a regular starter last season and McKinley is rejuvenated heading into the fall season.
“I just love the sport a lot more this year and so it’s making me a lot more excited for my senior year and just making me want to do that much better, along with the other seniors as well,” McKinley said.
McKinley said one of her primary goals is to win an invite this year.
“I’d love to win a tournament,” McKinley said. “That’s probably my biggest (goal) but I just want to play a lot better this year. I mean I’m that much more excited about the year already than I have been. I’m just a lot more driven this year.”
Idaho finished third at the Big Sky Conference Championship in the spring but the Vandals have their eyes on the championship this season.
“We should have a very good opportunity to compete to win that championship again this year,” Johnson said.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CabezaGarrett