It’s starting to feel like a foregone conclusion.
No. 22 UC Davis travels south for the Big West Conference women’s golf championship, and returns with yet another team title and an individual championship.
But though the Aggies entered this year’s tournament as favorites, UC Davis was far from a sure thing to take the title.
The Aggies roster does not feature a single senior this season, and with two freshmen and a sophomore in the lineup, no one could be sure how the team would react under the pressure of a conference championship tournament.
Even as the tournament commenced, the Aggies found themselves in a tough spot after the first day.
UC Davis trailed UC Irvine by five strokes after a round of play, but the team kept their composure.
“We didn’t let it get to us,” coach Anne Walker said. “We knew we could play good golf, and we just wanted to stick to our game.”
The Aggies responded in the final two days, taking first place with a score of 37-over par — 13 strokes better than second-place UC Irvine. The tournament win gave UC Davis its third straight Big West title.
“We had a young lineup,” Walker said. “Entering as favorites it was a relief to come away with a victory.”
The Aggies were led by freshman Beverly Vatananugulkit, whose four-over tournament gave her the Big West individual title.
“[Vatananugulkit] has been solid all year,” Walker said. “She came in with a lot of confidence. She did it her own way and she just enjoyed herself.”
Junior Amy Simanton played a strong tournament and finished second, hot on Vatananugulkit’s heels at six-over.
Junior Demi Runas tied for fourth at 11-over, while sophomore Jessica Chulya tied for 13th at 15-over and freshman Blair Lewis tied for 24th at 20-over.
With the tournament win, UC Davis is ensured a berth in the NCAA Regional Tournament for the fourth time in their five seasons as a Division I program. Last season the Aggies’ performance in the Regional allowed them to advance to the NCAA Tournament, and UC Davis will be looking to repeat that feat this season.
With the experience of a pressure-packed Big West Tournament under their belt, the Aggies will use the lessons learned this week to help in the regional.
“People want to say the [NCAAA Regional] is just another tournament,” Walker said, “but the truth is it’s not like any other tournament. What we went through this week is going to help us prepare for what is to come.”
TREVOR CRAMER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.