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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Column: Simply dominant

That’s six for those of you counting at home.

Six Aggie teams have won either their regular season or postseason conference championship this year.

The football team secured its first Great West Conference trophy by beating North Dakota in the 10th game of the year.

The women’s basketball team claimed the Big West Conference title on the last day of the regular season with a big win over Cal State Fullerton.

Gymnastics cruised to a championship in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation as no conference team was within 19 spots of the Aggies in the national rankings.

And of course, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams each took home Big West titles with incredible performances on the last day of the league championships in Long Beach.

However, none of these conference championships came in as dominating fashion as won by the women’s golf team.

On Tuesday, UC Davis finished the three-day Big West Tournament in San Luis Obispo with a 19-stroke lead over the next best team.

The Aggies were the only team to shoot under a 300 on any day (they did it twice) and placed four of the top five individual finishers.

This simply dominant performance doesn’t surprise Chelsea Stelzmiller[cq], though, who went to a third playoff hole with teammate Amy Simanton to determine the conference’s top player.

“We came into the tournament pretty confident,” Stelzmiller said. “The question wasn’t whether we were going to win, but how much we were going to win by.”

That certainty allowed UC Davis to cruise past the competition as it built the insurmountable lead from eight strokes after the first day to 14 the next day and to 19 to end the tournament.

The Aggies were, hands down, the favorite to win the Big West going in. Still, coach Anne Walker was pleased to see her team increase the lead, saying it would’ve been easy to just protect the lead as opposed to increasing and improving over the course of the tournament.

Stelzmiller also attributes the championship performance to the increased practice regiment her coach instituted in the weeks before the tournament.

Instead of a normal once-per-day afternoon practice, the Aggies hit balls in the morning before class and then worked on their short game in the afternoon.

The product showed.

As a result, the practice routine won’t change when the Aggies, who automatically qualified for the NCAA West Region Championships, prepare to head to their most likely destination in Stanford on May 6.

UC Davis played at the same course in Stanford two months ago where they finished fifth out of a field of 11 teams.

Other teams in UC Davis’ regional will most likely have some knowledge of the course, too. However, it’s the Aggies’ familiarity with it that might prove to be just the extra edge they need heading into regional tournament.

“We played there in February,” Walker said. “We will visualize it in our heads. We know the greens will be fast, the fairways will be narrow and the rough will be long.”

Stelzmiller didn’t play when the Aggies hit the links at Stanford in February. She has played the course plenty of times before though, and feels the greens are going to be a big factor in deciding the team’s performance.

The good thing for UC Davis is it will be able to rely on incredible depth heading into the tournament. Four Aggies are in the running for conference player of the year while two freshmen are up for freshman of the year honors, Walker said.

The Aggies won’t be able to lean solely on increased practice and solid depth, though.

Many of the teams expected to show up in Stanford in two weeks will provide a greater level of competition than the Aggies’ most recent tournament.

This is why the Aggies will look to have an increased mental focus to be able to advance out of the regional and qualify for national tournament.

“We need to put in the mental effort, too,” Stelzmiller said. “[We need to] just keep replaying the holes in our heads.”

MAX ROSENBLUM honestly thinks this was the most dominant conference championship performance by an Aggie team this year. Agree with him [or not] at sports@theaggie.org.

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