Salukis finish fall season with close win

Salukis finish fall season with close win

By Tyler Dixon

After a slow start, the women’s golf team ended the fall season winning two of its last three tournaments and hopes to keep the momentum going through the offseason.

The Salukis turned their season around after finishing in a tie for eighth and 14th respectively in the first two tournaments.

Senior Ashleigh Rushing said the team adjusted its game after the first two tournaments.

Advertisement

“Everyone fine-tuned their game toward the end,” Rushing said. “Luckily everyone started playing better at the same time.”

The tournament that got the Salukis back in shape was the University of Missouri Kansas City Fall Invitational. SIU won by 10 shots and had two players finish in the top three. Senior Cassie Rushing finished second and junior Kris Grimes was right behind Rushing in third.

Grimes had a strong finish in the UMKC tournament, as well as the Missouri State University Payne Stewart Invitational. She had three rounds in the 70s and tied for 11th at Missouri State.

Ashleigh Rushing said after the first tournament, she and Grimes had a wake up call.

“Me and (Grimes) both missed going to the first tournament and I think that kind of motivated us,” Rushing said.

It was not only the first tournament that set Rushing straight; she made a change to her equipment as well.

“I ended up switching drivers and putters,” Rushing said. “I changed those two things and it made a world of difference.”

Advertisement

Youth was another factor for the team this season. At least two freshmen qualified in every tournament this fall. Freshman Xainmei Jin finished third in the final tournament of the fall, the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raider Invitational, where the team won by one shot over host MTSU.

Ashleigh Rushing said she was not sure about the freshmen before the season started, but after playing with them, she knew they were the right fit.

“I was really impressed with how they ended up playing,” she said. “I was really proud of them.”

Coach Alexis Mihelich said there has to be a learning curve for new players in college.

“The first couple of tournaments the team finished kind of bumpy, but you have to give your freshmen some time to adjust,” Mihelich said.

Freshman Brooke Cusumano grabbed a spot in team qualifying in all five tournaments during the fall.

Cusumano said there were highs and lows during her season, but she was happy with the way it ended up. She said she started the season nervous, but got more comfortable as the year went on.

“If you would have said to me at the beginning of the season, ‘You’re going to do bad in two tournaments, but you’re going to win two and get a top three.’ I would take it,” Cusumano said. “I am definitely happy with it.”

A good thing about the number of freshmen on the team is it adds depth to the team. Along with players like sophomore Mattie Lindner and Grimes, it takes the pressure off of the older players.

“We have four to six girls who can consistently shoot in the 70s,” Cassie Rushing said.

Rushing finished the fall season tying a Saluki record. She is tied with 2008 graduate Kelly Gerlach for the most career rounds in the 70s. The record is 69. In 13 of 15 rounds in the fall season, Cassie Rushing finished at 79 or better.

Rushing said if she plays her game and does not worry about the record, she performs better.

“Going into the last tournament, the first few holes it’s honestly all I thought about,” she said.

Mihelich said of all the different areas of golf, her team needs the most help in one area.

“The majority is just putting, the team does not putt as good as they can,” Mihelich said. “That’s the only thing that really holds us back.”

The team’s first tournament in the spring is the Murray State University Racer Classic March 3 and 4 in Murray, Ky.

Mihelich has high expectations for her team in the next part of the season leading to the Missouri Valley Conference Championships.

“In the offseason we can keep on improving and every tournament in the spring can lead us to winning a conference championship in April,” Mihelich said.

Advertisement