Cal women’s golf loaded with veteran leadership in new season

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Although the Cal women’s golf team struggled in a roller coaster spring season, unable to find consistency, it ended the season with success that it can hope to build from. The Bears closed out their season with a 14th-place finish at the NCAA national tournament. This was an improvement for a team that failed to make it past the NCAA regional round in the 2015-16 season. On top of this impressive end to the season, the team is returning with a strong base. With only one senior graduating from last season, the team will have experience on its side, something it lacked last year.

As the season begins this week, the team will be looking toward its sophomore star, Maria Herraez. After winning the scoring champion, finishing in the top 15 three times and winning team MVP, Herraez comes into the fall season with some pressure to top this outstanding performance. Even if Herraez is able to have another phenomenal season, she, as it was shown last season, cannot single-handedly carry the team — as the Bears didn’t win a single tournament in the spring. Senior Marthe Wold should be a key secondary factor to the Bears’ success. Wold, who had a breakout sophomore season, struggled immensely in her junior season, seemingly never able to find her swing. She will be looking to get back on track and lead the team in her final season.

The Bears’ most exciting addition comes in freshman Sofia Lundell. The team adds yet another star international recruit in Lundell, who attended Sundsgymnasiet in Vellinge, Sweden. Lundell boasts an impressive résumé, having played for the Swedish national team over the past two years. She brings vast amounts of experience to the team, also having competed in the PGA Junior Open by Titleist and a Skandia National Tour in 2015. Lundell should be able to fill the hole left by graduating senior Lucia Gutierrez.

The Bears will come into the season ranked 25th in the country. While this is a strong starting point for the team, it is also a weary one. The Bears sat at No. 25 almost the entirety of their spring season and weren’t ever able to gain traction in the rankings, mostly because of their inconsistency and inability to perform against big opponents. The team’s ranking ultimately will mean nothing if it isn’t able to consistently move up the ranks.

Cal will head down to New Mexico this week for the Dick McGuire Invitational. The team kicked off its 2016-17 season at the Dick McGuire invitational and finished 9th overall. Given that the Bears have almost all of their players returning, the team brings some experience to this tournament, which could give it an edge. While the first tournament of the season can often be viewed as unimportant, for the Bears, it has the potential to set the tone for their whole season. Cal will not be starting off its season lightly, instead jumping right back in as it faces No. 2 Stanford and No. 22 Colorado, both strong teams that the the Bears will face throughout the season.

This tournament is no easy victory for the team, but if it is able to have a strong first outing, that could not only advance it in the rankings but also — more importantly — show that the team is a greater threat than it was in the spring. It is crucial for the Bears to be able to compete with other ranked teams, especially in the Pac-12, not only because they will be facing them often but also because the team was unable to beat most of these teams last season.

In the spring, Cal proved that it was a good team. This season, with almost all of their players returning, the Bears are in a unique position to push beyond what they achieved last season and become an elite team.

Graham Griffin covers women’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].