Maria Juliana Loza said Sunday she had plans to make a difficult phone call Monday — a call to her travel agent.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior golfer had plane reservations to fly back to her native Colombia after the NCAA women’s championship tournament.
But as she said, “My summer just got longer.”
The Mocs accomplished all of their goals for the season, except for the last two ultimate objectives — playing in the NCAA’s final event and winning it. They tied for 12th in the Central Regional on Saturday at Warren Golf Course in South Bend, Ind. They needed to place eighth or better to advance.
“We did a lot of good things this year,” UTC senior Emma de Groot said. “It’s just a shame that it’s tough to remember the good when you feel like we do.”
Loza had a chance to advance as an individual, but she lost in a playoff to a friend and fellow Colombian, Maribel Lopez Porras of Tulane. Loza reached the playoff by tying for eighth place and shooting par in the final round, including 4 under for the last six holes.
“[Loza’s] comeback was phenomenal,” coach Colette Murray said during the eight-hour drive home Sunday. “Not many players can get back to even from 4 over with only six holes to go.
“That was tremendous, and she set the tone for next year.”
UTC set records in a historic season of firsts — and lasts for the two seniors, de Groot and Christine Wolf, who helped build the program from the first drive of their first tournament in the fall of 2007 to the long van drive home Sunday.
“That first year we won four times — we had a bunch of individual titles — but the competition wasn’t nearly the same,” said Murray, who noted that her team beat the likes of NCAA host tx am , participants coast and sout caorlinaFlorida State, Georgia and NCAA finals participant Coastal Carolina this year. “The competition has gradually got tougher and tougher, which goes along with us getting better and better.”
UTC also won four tournaments this school year — one to close out the fall season and three in the spring.
The Mocs won the Southern Conference championship by 30 shots with de Groot earning medalist honors and freshman teammate Jordan Britt the runner-up.
“That was special because my family was there,” said de Groot, who also fondly recalls UTC’s win at the James Madison University tournament, where she was the runner-up to Wolf.
“We won conference and that’s always a goal. We had some downs but a lot of ups this year, which is well and good.”
Wolf and de Groot are leaving the program in the hands of Loza and soon-to-be sophomores Britt, Yushidra Budhram and Marion Duvernay.
“I wish some things had gone differently, but I know what I need to work on and I can’t wait until next year,” said Britt, who prepped at Signal Mountain and GPS. “We tried our hardest last week. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. It just wasn’t enough birdies.”
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...