After winning the NCAA National Championship in May of last year, one could say that expectations are high for the Arizona Wildcats women’s golf team coming into 2019.
That’s certainly how UA head coach Laura Ianello is feeling with the new season rapidly approaching.
“Of course, our goal this year is to win it again,” she said at Thursday’s preseason media day, “considering the fact that we have pretty much the same exact roster that we did last year and that most of these young women aspire to play professional golf one day, it’s going to be really fun to watch.”
Repeating as national champions won’t be easy however, as the Pac-12, which is widely considered as the best conference in the country for women’s golf, features multiple teams that Ianello feels could win the title.
“I think we are ranked ninth in the country, and ranked sixth within the conference,” she said when asked about the tough competition in the Pac-12, “with teams like UCLA, USC, Stanford and Cal, it’s the best of the best in our conference.”
If the Wildcats are to repeat as national champs in 2019, they will rely heavily on their experience of last year’s national championship run, as they return four out five starters from last term. Only Gigi Stoll didn’t come back to Tucson, choosing to turn pro.
The experience gained in 2018 is something that Arizona’s three seniors, Bianca Pagdanganan, Desiree Hong and Haley Moore feel will help them on their quest to reach the summit of NCAA women’s golf again this spring.
When asked about the advantage of returning for her senior year, after winning the national championship, it’s obvious that Moore — who sank the five-foot putt to seal the natty last May — is relishing the opportunity.
“I feel like every year we have gotten better and better and I knew that we could compete to win the national title,” she said, “doing it last year with my team, I knew I wanted to come back because we have the same girls and we can do it again.”
Sophomore Yu-Sang Hou and junior Sandra Nordaas also figure to play major roles for Arizona after they both helped the Wildcats capture the national title in May. They each also enjoyed impressive fall slates, as Hou won the Pac-12 Preview back in November, shooting 6-under par, while Nordaas was Arizona’s second highest finisher in the individual standings during the preview.
On Sunday, the Wildcats will tee off their title defense in Palos Verde, California when they take part in the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge. The event, which is hosted by Ohio State, features a field of 15 schools — including UCLA, USC, Stanford and ASU from the Pac-12 and nationally ranked schools Denver (5), Florida (6), Michigan State (21) and Pepperdine (18).
It’s a tough field to open the season against according to Ianello, but after their success in 2018, she and her team know they have what it takes to be successful when the pressure is highest.
Watch the media day press conference here:
Arizona Women’s Golf tee off their season tomorrow in California, when they take place in the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge. On Thursday morning, the defending NCAA National Champions spoke to the media at length about the upcoming year, defending their title and more. (From left to right: Assistant Coach Justin Bubser, Head Coach Laura Ianello, senior Bianca Pagdanganan, senior Desiree Hong and senior Haley Moore)Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, February 2, 2019