Oklahoma City University enters the 2013 spring season as the fourth-ranked squad in NAIA women's golf.
OCU tees off the new season Feb. 17-18 in the Claude Jacobs Collegiate Invitational at the Club at Colony Creek in Victoria, Texas.
The Stars notched top-5 finishes in the OCU Stars Fall Classic and the MSU Payne Stewart Memorial and competed in three NCAA Division I tournaments during the fall season.
"We played three really strong tournaments in the fall and our overall scores were really consistent," OCU coach Marty McCauley said. "With this team I feel like I have pretty good grasp of what we are going to do. The preseason rankings are always something that you look at and wonder about. Last year we were No. 1 and I didn't think we were truly good enough to have that ranking, but I feel like this season at No.4 we are better than that."
OCU won its 10th Sooner Athletic Conference title and posted six top-5 finishes a season ago. The Stars finished eighth and Jessica Schiele turned in a fourth-place finish overall in the 2012 NAIA Championships.
"We return four starters from last year's national tournament team," McCauley said. "They are all seniors and they were also part of our conference championship team so we should have experience."
Schiele, a senior from Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, England is the Stars' top returnee in 2013. Schiele garnered first-team NAIA all-American status, won three tournaments and posted two runner-up finishes a season ago. She averaged 75.00 shots in 11 rounds during the fall season.
"Jessica is obliviously still one of the better players in the country," McCauley said. "She didn't have as good of fall as last year, but her game is still there and she has the opportunity to play well and keep improving. I'm looking for her to be able to get back in a groove and focus on the process instead of the results."
A closer look at the Stars:
Joining Schiele is fellow senior Mary Larsh. Larsh, of Edmond, Okla., notched three top-10 finishes including a fourth-place outing in the SAC Championships and earned all-SAC honors as a junior. She averaged 77.73 in 11 rounds during the fall.
"Mary was our biggest surprise of the fall season," McCauley said. "She improved her scoring average by four shots, and was by far our biggest surprise. That is a big improvement for somebody to make from their junior year to their senior year. I was very pleased with her play."
Taylor Howard, of Ada, Okla., and Tanya Tibshraeny, of Westhaven, Kirkwood, South Africa, return for their senior campaigns. Howard notched two top-10 finishes and earned all-SAC and honorable-mention NAIA all-American acclaim in 2012. She averaged 80.91 stokes in 11 rounds during the fall.
Tibshraeny played in the NAIA Championships a season ago. She averaged 81.91 shots in 11 rounds during the fall.
"We are looking for consistency from Tanya and Taylor this year," McCauley said. "They have both shown they can shoot good rounds and hopefully they can come back on some of the big holes and bad rounds and find a happy medium and show some consistency."
Freshmen Taylor Cusack, of Oklahoma City, and Caitlin Swisher, of Chandler, Okla., redshirted for the Stars in 2012. Cusack shot 91-92–184 and Swisher carded 88-88–179 while playing as individuals in the OCU Stars Classic during the fall season.
Junior Elia Folch joins OCU for the 2013 spring season. The transfer from Barcelona, Spain, averaged 75.91 in 11 rounds during the fall season. Folch was a two time NJCAA all-American at Seminole (Fla.).
"Elia was one of the top junior college players in the country last year," McCauley said. "She made an immediate impact for us this fall in the three DI tournaments we played in. She had our second lowest scoring average in the fall and was very consistent."
Kurstyn Mills, of Shawnee, Okla., and Abby Thompson, of Edmond, Okla., join the Stars as freshmen in 2013. Mills averaged 81.60 shots in 10 rounds and Thompson averaged 84.00 shots in seven rounds during the fall season.
"The freshmen got to play in some events this fall as individuals and got some experience," McCauley said. "At any given time those younger girls can work their way into the lineup."
According to McCauley, teamwork will be a major key to OCU's success in 2013.
"Golf is an individual sport and getting a group of nine individuals to buy into being a team is difficult at times," McCauley said. "I think that we did a better job of that in the fall. You have to want to go and compete for the person that is sitting next to you. A big key is having everybody on board."
OCU will play two tournaments in February and not again until April 1. McCauley says the Stars need to take advantage of the long layoff.
"I think it very important that we figure out what we need to work on during the first two tournaments," McCauley said. "I think that too often in golf you get into playing tournaments and you don't ever work on anything. Our schedule gives us a good opportunity to figure out where we stand and then go fix some things to be ready to go for championships at the end of the season."
The Stars have won 10 of the last 11 SAC championships. OCU has won NAIA titles in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.