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Story by Emily Gresbrink

The women’s golf team went into the fall portion of their season with only one major goal in mind: to grab the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship title and earn a spot in the 2011 NCAA Division III Championship.

After the three-day tournament held in Wisconsin Rapids, the team met their goals and came out in first place, securing themselves a spot at Nationals this upcoming May.

On Friday, day one of the tournament, UW-Whitewater proved to be the biggest threat to the team with a nine-stroke lead over Eau Claire and UW-Stevens Point (each with 342 strokes). However, three of the top five individual spots went to the Blugolds.

Coach Meghan Sobotta said that Friday proved to be rough for the girls.

“While we had higher strokes, we struggled a little bit,” she said. “We had two pretty good scores (for the day), but we were only down by nine strokes.”

Junior Emily Swift said the golf course, combined with a week of non-competition, were factors in the team’s first day performance.

“I don’t think a lot of us were mentally prepared for playing,” she said. “(Sobotta) warned us that there would be some high scores throughout the field of golfers, so I think we used that as an excuse for our scoring (on day one).”

Sophomore Catherine Wagner said falling behind Whitewater was another reason the team got amped up for the remaining competition.

“[Falling behind Whitewater] was a real eye-opener, considering we planned and wanted to blow everyone out of the water,” she said. “After that, we all realized that there was competition and we needed to focus a little bit more on what we were there to do.”

On Saturday, the Blugolds took over first place.

Sobotta said that Saturday was when the team started to kick the tournament into gear.

“Things started to kind of get together and the nerves finally calmed,” she said. “I was pleased we were in the lead, but five strokes is not a big lead. It could have come down to one or two strokes from (Stevens Point) and that would have been it.”

Sunday was do or die for the Blugolds. Sobotta said the team was “ready to get some revenge on the course,” and that they did.

By the end of the day, the women had won the tournament. They also secured a place in the NCAA Division III Championship game.

“I have a great bunch of girls to work with – very talented and dedicated, ready to win the national tournament,” Sobotta said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group.”

Winning individual medalist honors was Mattes, who finished first. Mattes’ victory means that a Blugold has won individual medalist honors for eight straight seasons.

“We had nine girls at the tournament and 4 of us finished top 10. That’s pretty good if you ask me,” Wagner said.

Wagner, tying for second with 243 strokes, said watching Mattes and her team win was a good feeling.

“[Mattes] had a great tournament,” she said. “It was fun knowing your competition is within your own team, as Eau Claire swept first and second place, while two girls tied for 4th place (E. Swift and Lattery, 247 strokes) and one other (Junior Jamie Hauser, 249 strokes) for 6th place.”

The team will return for nationals on May 10-13 at Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida. Last year the Blugolds brought home third, but this year they will hopefully bring back the Division III national title to Blugold territory.

“Since [some of us have] already played the course, we know which holes are tricky and what shots to play,” Swift said. “I’m (personally) excited to go back and shoot some low scores now that I know I can do it. As a team, we’re excited to work hard this winter and spring so we are prepared to give our best shot at Nationals”

Sobotta believes they can beat Methodist College (N.C.), the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

“(Methodist is) in reach and they are in our sights,” she said. “This team can absolutely be national champs if they just let it happen.”