Salukis look forward to next season

Women’s golf looks to pick up where it left off

The Saluki women’s golf team had a disappointing end to the season, but is poised for a strong 2014-2015 campaign.

SIU finished fourth at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament after winning four tournaments throughout the regular season.

Coach Alexis Mihelich said the low point of the season was the meager result in the MVC tournament. She said one of the best moments of the year came more than six months ago at a tournament hosted by Middle Tennessee State University.

“That field was the toughest field we faced all year. There were 18 teams; only six were ranked below 100 nationally, and we won that tournament,” she said. “Going into that tournament, golfstat.com had us ranked to finish 12th and we came away with the win.”

Another highlight of the season was the play of seniors Ashleigh and Cassie Rushing.

Cassie’s 76.3 strokes per round and Ashleigh’s 78.6 were the two best averages on the team. Ashleigh and Cassie have also been on 10 tournament-winning teams at SIU. Unfortunately 2014 marked the final season the Rushings will wear Saluki maroon as student-athletes.

Ashleigh said sharing the experience of playing golf with her sister the last four years has been great.

“Having her on the team with me has pushed me to get better,” Ashleigh said. “Anything bad, or anything good that happened, she was always there. We talked about our rounds all the time and kind of compare them. It was really neat to do that.”

While replacing Cassie and Ashleigh will be tough, the pieces are already in place to do so, Mihelich said.

“We basically get four returning starters back with Brooke [Cusumano], Mattie [Lindner], Kristie [Yang] and Xianmei [Jin],” Mihelich said. “When a team graduates a really strong player it is just more motivation for someone to step up and be that player next year.”

Freshmen Brooke Cusumano and Xianmei Jin each played in all 34 rounds the Salukis participated in last season.

Jin’s lowest round of the season was 70, which she shot twice, was good for second lowest of the season behind Cassie’s 68 at the University Missouri Kansas City Fall Invitational.

Sophomore Mattie Lindner and junior Kris Grimes will also be back next season.

Lindner appeared in nine tournaments this season and posted an average round score of 78.8.

Grimes played in all but two tournaments for SIU and posted a round average of 78.9 strokes and a low round of 73 in 2013-2014, her first season as a Saluki.

Grimes will be one of two seniors on next year’s roster. She said she hopes to be a leader among her teammates.

“I know that I have to set a good example. If I were to be captain, coach looks at me to be responsible for my team. At the same time, I have to be responsible for myself and them and let them know we can’t give up,” she said. “I just want to be positive and tell them we have to do the best we can, everywhere we go.”

In addition to the members the Salukis will bring back, the team will welcome two new players to the roster.

Alice Ho of Wadsworth, Ohio, and Hanna Netisingha of Carol Stream have both signed national letters of intent with the Salukis for next year.

Mihelich said Netisingha shows a true passion for golf; she will compete in 13 tournaments during the summer before her first semester at SIU.

Mihelich said Ho has already set very high goals for herself as a collegiate golfer.

“On official visits, you ask the players vaguely what are your goals,” Mihelich said. “She didn’t hesitate and said ‘shoot a 66, I’ve shot around par and below par and in the 70s, I know I can shoot six birdies in a round.’”

If Ho achieved her goal, she would break Braidy Hood’s school-record round of 67.

With the combination of players new and old for SIU, Grimes said she thinks that the Salukis can succeed next season.

“I think we’re going to be really good,” she said. “With the freshmen coming in, there will be a lot more competition, and honestly competition is good, it helps us push everyone. We can only be great.”

Tony McDaniel can be reached at tmcdaniel@dailyegyptian.com, @tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 282

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