Women's Golf Has Sights Set on an NCAA Title This Spring

Jan. 25, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. - Third-year head coach Melissa Luellen and the 2005 Sun Devil women's golf team head into the spring season looking to pick up where they left off this fall. After winning a pair of tournaments and turning in top five finishes in all five of their fall events, the Sun Devils have their sights set on even bigger and better things this spring.

With seven returning letterwinners, including all five golfers from last year's 10th-place NCAA team, and a crop of talented, young players, the Sun Devils head into the spring season ranked second and sixth in the national polls. After finding their winning ways in the fall with back-to-back tournament victories at the Price's Give 'Em Five and the Stanford/Pepsi Intercollegiates, Arizona State has visions of capturing ASU's seventh NCAA championship and its first since 1998 in mind.

'We did things a little differently this year and didn't set our goals for the whole year. We set goals for the fall, and at the end of the fall, we had accomplished and exceeded all of our goals,' Luellen said. 'This spring, our team is focused on winning the national championship. The key to achieving a goal is believing you can accomplish it. Our goal is not easy, but it's attainable. This team truly believes that its goal of competing for an NCAA championship is attainable.'

A key component in achieving that goal will be one of the newest members of the Arizona State team, freshman Louise Stahle (Lund, Sweden). Stahle burst onto the national scene in her collegiate debut, missing a win at the Mercedes Benz of Bend Fall Preview by just one stroke. She finished second at all three events she played in this fall and led the Sun Devils with a 70.22 stroke average. Stahle heads into the spring ranked second in the national rankings and will be looking to become the first Sun Devil to win a tournament in three seasons and the first to challenge for an individual NCAA title since Grace Park in 1999.

'Louise is one of those unbelievable people who come into your life with talent and enthusiasm and every single quality that a coach could ask for. She played great golf this fall but was frustrated that she didn't win. I am going to guarantee that Louise is going to win in the spring.'

Junior Alissa Kuczka (Phoenix, Ariz.) and sophomore Tiffany Tavee (Gilbert, Ariz.) also figure to be pivotal pieces in Arizona State's quest for a national championship. Kuczka and Tavee both earned honorable-mention All-Pac-10 honors after finishing fourth and fifth at last year's Pac-10 Championships, respectively. The pair carded identical 73.17 stroke averages and each turned in two top 10 finishes this fall. Kuczka, who also earned honorable-mention Pac-10 All-Academic honors last year, and Tavee will give ASU a strong 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup, and each player has the potential to win individual titles as well.

'Alissa is steady as a rock. It has been fun to watch her interest in golf peak each year she has been at ASU. Alissa's goal is to be an All-American. She will have to play really well this spring, but I totally believe she can accomplish that goal,' Luellen said. 'Tiffany is a vital part of our team. She works incredibly hard and is very focused. If we can get her started with strong first rounds this spring, she is going to be very successful.'

Two young members of the Sun Devil squad, sophomore Charmaine Erasmus (Bradenton, Fla.) and freshman Brooke Todare (Paradise Valley, Ariz.), broke into the lineup in the fall and look to make even bigger contributions this spring. Erasmus came on strong toward the end of last season by carding a one-under 71 and an even-par 72 in the two final rounds of the NCAA Championship. She picked up where she left off this fall, turning in a pair of top 25 finishes, including a seventh-place showing at the Price's Give 'Em Five Intercollegiate. Todare registered a solid fall and carded her two best rounds of the fall for a tie for 35th at the Kent Youel Invitational, a sure sign of things to come during the spring season.

'Charmaine played decently without hitting the ball that great this fall. I expect her to perform much better this spring, like she did last spring. When Charmaine plays well, our team always scores well,' Luellen said. 'Brooke is as enthusiastic about the game of golf as she has ever been in her life. She is a tough competitor and has worked hard in the off-season. Brooke really wants to be a part of that final five.'

The Sun Devil lineup features a pair of seniors in Erin Tone (Gilbert, Ariz.) and Nicole Deacon (Scottsdale, Ariz.) who both bring veteran experience and leadership to a young Sun Devil squad. A two-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection, Tone has come on strong to help the Sun Devils in each of the last two springs, and Luellen expects her to do the same this season. Tone played in two tournaments this fall and finished in the top 20 in each event, including a tie for 14th at the Kent Youel Invitational. The 2002 WAC Freshman of the Year, Deacon has not played her best golf since transferring to ASU from San Jose State but continues to bring all of the intangibles that only a senior can.

'It has been difficult for Erin to fight and scrap hard to make the top five, which she has done. She has played well this season and is as excited as anyone in our program about the possibility of this team reaching its goals this spring,' Luellen said. 'Even though she has struggled with her game, Nicole has been such a delight to have in our program. She continues to work hard and push her teammates. She has been a great senior for us.'

Sophomore Lindsay Anderson (El Paso, Texas) also looks to contribute more for the Sun Devils this spring. She played in seven events last year, including a sixth-place finish at the NC State Saguaro Classic, and gained invaluable experience at last season's Pac-10 and NCAA Championships. Anderson also played in the U.S. Women's Amateur Championships this summer, experience that should serve her and the Sun Devils well this spring.

'Lindsay has been working hard on her game. She's a great competitor and is looking to break into the traveling team this spring,' Luellen said.

The two unknowns for the Sun Devils will be sophomore Danelle Perata (Vacaville, Calif.) and freshman Sara Lester (Walnut Creek, Calif.). Neither player saw action in the fall and had their progress slowed due to injury. An honorable-mention Pac-10 All-Academic selection in 2004, Perata saw action in five tournaments last season, punctuating her year with a gritty performance at the NCAA West Regional to help the Sun Devils go from last place after the first round to a seventh-place showing and their 13th straight NCAA bid. Despite battling a severe back injury that has plagued her entire ASU career, Perata carded a career-low 71 in the second round of the regional en route to a tie for 25th to lead the team. Lester comes to ASU from Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, Calif., where she was a four-time all-conference selection and earned league MVP honors in each of her last two seasons as a prepster.

'Danelle continues to fight injury. I am hopeful that she will be able to participate in qualifying in the spring. Her performance at the NCAA West Regional is one of the best sports moments I have ever seen. Never underestimate Danelle,' Luellen said. 'Sara also continues to struggle with her health and hasn't been able to make the changes in her swing that she needs to play better golf. Once she gets healthy, I expect her to play better and be able to help us.'

The Sun Devils are slated to play in five regular-season tournaments this spring, starting Feb. 7-9 at the Northrup Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, Calif. ASU will travel to the Wildcat Invitational (Feb. 21-23), the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational (March 11-13) and the Mountain View Collegiate (March 26-27) before playing host to the annual PING/ASU Invitational April 1-3 at ASU's Karsten Golf Course. California will host the 2004 Pac-10 Championships April 18-20 in San Francisco, while ASU will look to qualify for its 14th straight NCAA appearance at the NCAA Regionals to follow on May 5-7. The Sun Devils' attempt to capture their seventh national title will play out May 17-20 as Oregon State plays host to the 2004 NCAA Championships at the Meadows Golf Course in Sunriver, Ore.

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