Women's Golf Fall Season Preview
Sept. 17, 2013
MALIBU, Calif. - With all six players back from last season and the addition of two talented freshmen, Pepperdine women's golf coach Laurie Gibbs feels that Golfweek's #15 preseason ranking is a fair starting point. But it's not where she wants to finish.
The Waves will be vying for their 13th consecutive West Coast Conference title and are focused on making a 12th trip to the NCAA Championships after a one-year absence. A deep, talented group is determined to make that happen.
"Fifteen is probably where we should be with our returning and incoming players," said Gibbs, who begins her 21st season in charge of the Waves. "But I feel we're going to be better than that. Our goal is to be ranked in the top 10 at the end of the year and finish in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships.
"Last year there were a lot of positives, but there were still some things we needed to learn from. We were a little inconsistent and when we got to regionals we weren't 100 percent. We need to build from where we were, and be more consistent."
The Waves will have a balanced roster of eight players with three seniors, two juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen.
"We're solid one through eight," said Gibbs, who is assisted again by Leanne Craig. "Any one of them could represent us at any given time, and go out there and compete at a high level. We're going to have more competition and it's going to be important that they are playing well in order to secure their spot in the lineup."
Someone who was at her best all of last season was senior Grace Na (Alameda, Calif./Alameda HS), who is looking to cap off one of the top careers in Pepperdine history. A three-time All-American (including first team honors from both Golfweek and the WGCA last season), Na heads into her final season with a career scoring average of 73.31, #1 all-time at Pepperdine. She also set the school's single-season scoring record (72.17) last season en route to finishing #8 and #9 in the Golfstat and Golfweek/Sagarin final rankings, respectively.
"Grace's goal this year is to be the #1 players in the country," Gibbs said. "That is a very realistic goal. She's a hard worker and she knows that this is her time, her year, to go out and do something special. All the experiences that she's taken from the last three years can be used to really propel herself to the next level."
Na is one of three captains along with fellow seniors Liv Cheng (Auckland, New Zealand) and Danielle Gillaspy (Santa Maria, Calif./St. Joseph's HS). Cheng, a three-time All-WCC first teamer, had a tremendous spring season and continued to play well through the summer, as she qualified for the U.S. Women's Amateur and advanced to match play. Gillaspy is also an experienced member of the squad, having competed in 19 tournaments in her first three seasons.
"Liv is ready to go," Gibbs said. "I feel that she can achieve the ultimate goal of being both an All-American and Academic All-American as a senior. She has the game and has worked really hard. I feel that Danielle's senior season will be her best year. I'm proud of what she does and for being a role model on the team."
The Waves' two juniors, Alina Ching (Honolulu, Hawaii/Punahou School) and Somin Lee (Denver, Colo./Overland HS) have been regulars in the lineup the past two seasons. Gibbs expects both will regain the form they enjoyed as freshmen when they helped spark the Waves to an NCAA Championships berth.
"Alina and Somin are both very talented," Gibbs said. "There were some bumps in the road last year, but they are very positive and have good attitudes. This is going to be a good year for both of them."
The Waves' lone sophomore, Marissa Chow (Honolulu, Hawaii/Iolani HS), had an excellent rookie campaign, as she finished second on the team with a 74.17 stroke average and was ranked among the nation's top 80 players by both Golfweek/Sagarin and Golfstat.
"Marissa did an excellent job last year even though she was dealing with some injuries," Gibbs said. "She focuses on the right things and comes ready to play. She's a real joy to coach."
"Andrea has a great resume and a lot of experience," Gibbs said. "Alessandra has been very solid, very consistent, and is playing really well. They both have the chance to make a real contribution this year."
Pepperdine's fall season begins with back-to-back tournaments at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational (Sept. 19-20), hosted by New Mexico, and the Golfweek Conference Challenge (Sept. 23-25). The Waves won the Golfweek event last season for the second time in four years. Pepperdine will also play at Oklahoma's Schooner Fall Classic (Oct. 5-7) and the Stanford Intercollegiate (Oct. 25-27).