Offseason chemistry key to teams success

Neal Hogden

“While most other students were moving in Labor Day weekend, the UW Oshkosh women’s golf team was hosting and participating in its first tournament of the year. The team has to prepare for opening weekend by practicing its game individually during the offseason and as a team during golf camp, a week before the first tournament.

Team Relationships and Academics

Sophomore golfer Hanna Rebholz said while season preparation is important, the relationships the team creates mean just as much.

“This week is a busy week with many tryout rounds and team bonding, which helps bring everyone together and build relationships,” Rebholz said.

During this time, it is important for the team to support each other on and off the course. The need for support from teammates is not limited to just the end of golf season.

Junior golfer Kayla Priebe said one way she was able to support her teammates was to help the incoming freshmen get acclimated to their academic schedules.

“All of us on the team who are returners, sophomores through seniors, have done our best to help the incomers as much as possible,” Priebe said. “We walked them to their classrooms before classes started.”

Priebe said the team’s cohesion is not just created on the course, but in the classroom, as well.

“We are helping them set up advising appointments and choose classes for next semester,” Priebe said. “We can even help them with homework questions.”

Senior Micayla Richards said the team puts just as much importance on the classroom as it does on the course, including time management skills in both areas.

“The transition from high school to college can be very difficult, especially being a student athlete,” Richards said. “Being able to manage your time is crucial for both academic and athletic success.”

Priebe has high praise for the team’s senior leader, Micayla Richards, especially concerning her level of the team-first mentality she brings.

“Micayla has led by example by staying focused and working hard every day during practice,” Priebe said. “She is very encouraging, approachable and an incredibly supportive teammate.”

Junior golfer Ireland Dunne said even with the stress that academics and athletics can bring, the team never forgets to enjoy the situation that they are in.

“We have bi-weekly academic meetings with [head coach Liza Ruetten] to make sure we are keeping our grades up and we are staying focused on school but also are having fun and enjoying playing golf,” Dunne said.

Both Ruetten and assistant coach Laura Stair are strong believers in the idea that the team comes before the individual. This is demonstrated in the team’s ability to help each other during tournaments.

Dunne said the team always tries to improve itself through using the experience of the upperclassmen to help lead the underclassmen.

“For some players that have played the course before, it can be a little easier because they know generally where most of the trouble is like sand traps and out of bounds,” Dunne said. “When you’re playing a course for the first time, you don’t always know some of those things.”

Compared to academic achievements, a student-athlete’s time management skills are just as important. Stair said the coaching staff, as well as other players, do their best to help make the load of balancing school and a sport more manageable.

“We are constantly seeing the girls give input on classes, homework and helping the freshman figure out where to go,” Stair said. “It’s been so exciting to see them all work together so fluently.”

Community Involvement

Giving back to the city and people of Oshkosh is also a very important part of the team. Sophomore Anna Scheibe said the team tries to embody the UWO way when it’s helping the community.

“We are all about giving back to the people who are in need,” Scheibe said. “We participated in the food drive in the spring with all the other sport teams here at UWO. As a golf team, [we] worked together to make a difference.”

Micayla Richards said the team set community service and team goals at the beginning of the season in addition to academic and athletic goals.

“A few goals we had discussed were additional volunteer hours, attending other sporting events together and adopting a family for the holiday season,” Richards said.

Postseason Preparation

As the fall season winds down, the UWO women’s golf team prepares for a busy time of year. This includes wrapping up the season with two regular season tournaments in nine days and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship, which will hopefully propel the squad to a postseason appearance.

Coach Ruetten has progressively coached her team to better and better finishes in the conference tournament over her five years as head coach of the team. Her tenure started with a seventh-place finish in the 2012-13 season. Over the past four years, Oshkosh hasn’t finished below fourth in the WIAC tournament, highlighted by a championship two years ago.

After winning the WIAC Championship, the Titans received an automatic bid to the Division-III Championship tournament. The UWO golf team took 14th out of 17 teams at the Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas. Priebe, Richards and Stair were all part of that championship run.

The Titans have made the NCAA D-III tournament three times since the 2002-03 season. This year’s team is looking to add more to the program’s storied past, and Priebe spoke to the mentality the team has as they try to achieve and exceed marks set by previous teams.

“The past couple of years, our team has been very successful in our conference,” Priebe said. “I think this past success drives us to want to continue to improve and become an even better team than the previous year.”

After a second-place finish in the WIAC tournament last year, the Titans will look to take down defending WIAC champion UW-Stout across the three-day tournament to end the season.

Micayla Richards said the team is staying focused on themselves as they work toward both the postseason and achieving its goals.

“We have really focused on worrying about ourselves when we compete,” Richards said. “It is very easy to get caught up in the score or how your competitor is doing during the round.”

Richards also said it is very fortunate the team has prior experience in postseason play, having made it to the NCAA Division-III Championship tournament back in spring of 2016.

“Some of our team members have been fortunate enough to participate in the NCAA National Tournament in Houston two years ago,” Richards said. “That drive and motivation to go back is very apparent in practice and preparing for conference.”

Stair said the team’s attention to detail can help the squad succeed during the last two events of the season.

“Some things we can work on to improve is just taking our time to focus in practice, utilizing the time and resources we have to work towards the bigger picture,” Stair said.

The team will get a good look at the UW-Stout squad next weekend in the Mad Dawg Invitational at the Stevens Point Country Club. Last year, the Titans shot well and beat the Blue Devils during the invitational and took second overall in the tournament.

The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athleltic Conference Championship will conclude the fall season for the Titans Oct. 6-Oct. 8. The tournament will be held at the Reedsburg Country Club in Reedsburg, Wisc.

Last year as a team, the Titans earned a second-place finish in the WIAC Championship, with Priebe and Stair both earning top-six finishes.”