Top-8 Finish Still The Goal For Wildcats

Franklin Kao

By Franklin KaoThe Daily Northwestern

Jordan did it in ’91. Clarkson did it in ’02. Frodo did it in ’03.

Those three stepped up to the occasion and found success in their struggles. The question is, will the Wildcats be able to step up in ’07 to reach the goal that they’ve had all season?

Northwestern will play in the NCAA Central Regional championships this week in Ann Arbor, Mich. The 12th-seeded Cats need to finish in the top eight out of 21 teams in the region in order to advance to the NCAA championships in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Senior Lili Alvarez said the team has worked hard this week to fix its mistakes and is ready for the challenge this weekend.

“We’ve all been working to build momentum and a good mindset for this week,” Alvarez said. “We’ve been talking about qualifying for nationals since the first day. … We really want this.”

Throughout the season, one of the biggest faults with NU’s game has been the “big numbers,” Alvarez said. The “big numbers,” or high scores, don’t allow the Cats to capitalize on opportunities and change good rounds to mediocre ones, Alvarez said.

While attempting to keep scoring down, the Cats will also need to deal with the hardships that might surface during the tournament. Sophomore Jen Hong said handling some of those hardships may favor NU.

“I know it’s supposed to rain and that’ll be tough for everyone in the field,” Hong said. “We played in these kinds of conditions all season, so that might be an advantage to us.”

Along with the physical hardships of the weather, the team might confront mental challenges during the tournament as well. Alvarez said patience is the key in a tournament of this magnitude. The biggest challenge will come in the last day, especially if the Cats are sitting in a deciding spot (seventh, eighth or ninth), because everything they worked on throughout the season will be tested, Alvarez said.

Although the team may be a little nervous, Alvarez said some anxiety may benefit them come game time.

“There’s a sense of nervousness, but that’s good … that’s adrenaline, it carries you through the tournament,” Alvarez said. “We know we’re good … now it’s just a matter of letting our game take control.”

Last year, the Cats finished 10th in the Central Regional championships. NU fell four spots on the last day, shooting a 25-over 313. This year, Hong said the team has one difference that will improve their play from the previous season.

“We have Lili Alvarez,” Hong said of the Tulane transfer. “She’s absolutely a fantastic player. She brings a lot to the team mentality on the golf course. (She’s) very focused and (has a) hard work ethic. She’s awesome.”

The Cats are coming off a third-place finish at the Big Ten championships. They finished with a score of 68-over 1220 (313-307-301-299). The Cats kept their composure and patience to improve on each round in the Big Ten championships.

NU also has an advantage this weekend due to its experience on the course. The Cats played on this same course earlier in the season at the Wolverine Invitational, where they finished in third place out of 10 teams. Senior Alice Kim, junior Brittany Johnston and Alvarez all finished in the top 10 at the Wolverine Invitational.

Reach Franklin Kao at [email protected]