published Monday, May 7th, 2012

UTC women's golf aims for upset

UTC golfer Maria Juliana Loza hits a ball out of a bunker.
UTC golfer Maria Juliana Loza hits a ball out of a bunker.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Maria Juliana Loza, Jordan Britt and Sophie Weilguni each practiced out of a green-side bunker.

Mette Kryger and Marion Duvernay worked on fading and hooking shots from the fairway at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf practice facility.

They were all putting final touches in preparation for their participation in an NCAA Regional beginning Thursday just in case they find themselves in a bunker or behind a tree.

"You can compare it to conference in that we had to win or go home, and now we have to be in the top eight or we go home."

The Mocs will be competing in their fourth straight regional as a team and will play three rounds at the Penn State Blue Course beginning on Thursday.

They earned their spot the hard way -- winning the automatic bid from the Southern Conference when they not the favorites. In fact, they also came back from an 11-shot deficit after the first round and a four-shot deficit after the second day.

It allowed them to play one more tournament this season as a team.

"We celebrated a bit, they got through with finals and then we got down to business," coach Colette Murray said. "We became more structured and focused once they got all that over with."

The Mocs were among that teams could have won the SoCon and they did. This week, when the three-round tournament begins Thursday, they'll face even longer odds of extending their season to the national championship which will be played at Vanderbilt Legends Club.

UTC is seeded No. 21 seed out of the 24-team field. Only Oral Roberts, Jacksonville State and Long Island University are seeded lower than the Mocs who must finish in the top eight.

Oklahoma State, South Carolina and Michigan State enter as the bubble teams as they are seeded seven through nine.

"Regionals will be tougher and tighter than conference," said Loza, the lone senior on the squad. "We know that we can't let loose on the first day and then come back. It's a better field so we need to be there from the first hole to the last."

Loza and Britt will lead the way playing in the Mocs' top two spots. Britt is playing -- possibly -- better than ever in her two-year career. She earned medalist honors in the SoCon tournament with a 6-over 222 and said she's prepared for a second shot at advancing to the biggest of women's golf big dances.

"We ended our [regular] season on a high note," said Britt, who played at GPS then Signal Mountain. "If you embrace your role on your team, and if you can keep yourself in the right mindset, it's going to be OK.

"I know stats tell a lot about a player, but they don't measure heart."

And they don't measure preparation -- only execution.

"We've always gone in with a very positive approach," Murray said. "We were disappointed last year not to advance [from the regional] and the year before we had only four players."

This year, Murray has five players making the 13-hour drive to play at the Penn State Blue Course. They're five prepared players.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

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 ...

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