Women's Golf Set For Year One of the Aagaard Era
PULLMAN, Wash. - The Washington State women's golf team is looking to make an impact this fall as the Cougars head into their first season under the direction of new head coach Sofie Aagaard.
The new leader of the Cougars comes to the Palouse after a successful seven-year tenure as head coach at Cal Poly. During Aagaard's time with the Mustangs she racked up three Big West Conference titles and guided Cal Poly to three NCAA Regional appearances during her seven years at the helm. Aagaard inherits a young, but experienced, roster heading into her first season with the Cougs as Wazzu returns all but two golfers from last season's team.
"I'm so excited to get the season going," expressed Aagaard. "I think our early season practices have been great. The team has played some great rounds at Palouse Ridge. We're seeing great commitment from the players and seeing really great energy in practice. It's starting to come together."
The roster is full of talented returners, as a season ago Washington State posted its fifth-best team scoring average in program history at 293.39 strokes per round. With all but two golfers returning from last season, the Cougars have their sights set on qualifying for the NCAA Regional this season, which takes place at Palouse Ridge on May 8-10.
"We've had some great team-building sessions and had some fun as well. We have a very young roster, which is good because there is great energy. At the same time, it's a roster with great experience because they have all played in a lot of tournaments. The team also has great senior leadership in Darcy Habgood and Jiye Ham and both have been really strong leading up to the season."
Habgood returns to the Cougars for her fifth season after utilizing her extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nambucca Heads, Australia native is looking to build off her top-10 finish at last season's Pac-12 Women's Golf Championship, as she tied for ninth to give WSU its first top-10 individual finish at the Pac-12 Championship in 13 seasons. The fifth-year senior heads into this season with the third-best career scoring average in program history at 74.80. Habgood has also posted 10 top-25 finishes during her WSU career.
"I think the rest of the team looks to Darcy because of her experience," Aagaard said. "She is a hard worker, a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to competition. She's really fiery on course and I think she brings really good energy to the team in her dedication and commitment to what needs to be done."
Ham also returns to the fold for her senior year at WSU. She is looking to build off last season's strong performance, as she posted the 14th-best scoring average in a single season in program history at 74.81. The senior has played in a total of 19 tournaments during her Wazzu tenure and she heads into the fall holding the ninth-best career scoring average in program history at 75.80 strokes per round.
Four experienced sophomores return to the Palouse this season, including Madelyn Gamble, who is poised to build off her strong freshman campaign. The Pleasant Hill, California native played in all nine tournaments during her rookie season and finished third on the team with a scoring average of 75.73 strokes per round. Fellow sophomores Emily Cadwell, Sarah Skovgaard-Bils, and Jinyu Wu bring back ample tournament experience as each played in three-or-more tournaments last season.
The Cougars also welcomed three freshmen this year as Hannah Harrison, Lily McCauley, and Emiko Sverduk will be making their WSU debut this fall along with their head coach.
Washington State will play in four tournaments this fall. Three of those events will be familiar to the returners, as the Cougars played in the Badger Invitational (Sept. 18-20), the GOLFWEEK Red Sky Classic (Sept. 26-28), and the Pac-12 Preview (Oct. 31-Nov. 2) last season. The newest tournament added to the fall schedule will take place in Lawrence, Kansas on Oct. 17-18, as the Cougars will play in the Marilynn Smith Sunflower Invitational.
"I'm really excited about the fall schedule because I feel like every tournament that we go to is going to be a stronger field and potentially a more challenging course," said WSU's first-year head coach.
Aagaard's debut will take place this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin as the Cougars will be opening their second-straight season at the Badger Invitational. At last season's tournament, Washington State finished a season-best fifth place, while Madelyn Gamble posted a career-best third-place finish in her collegiate debut tournament.
The future is bright for the Washington State women's golf program with Aagaard leading the way. However, she believes that setting a foundation will be a huge factor in her first season on the Palouse.
"I think what's important to me in my first year here as a coach is to get to know the student-athletes and figure out what they need and how to coach them the most productively I can both as a team and individually."
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