Coming off a lengthy off-season break, the Vanderbilt women's golf team swings into tournament mode Monday at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational. While the nearly four-months away from competition was productive, rest assured the tenth-rated Commodores are eager to tee it up on the par 72, Arizona National Golf Club in Tucson.
Vanderbilt last played competitively at the Stanford-Pepsi Intercollegiate October 23, all part of an overall strategy that Coach Martha Richards Freitag has found effective.
"Since coming to Vanderbilt I have found that ending our fall schedule early helps us in a number of ways," Freitag says. "The extra month allows our team to function as part of the student body without the added time management pressures that accompany a competitive schedule. It gives the team a better opportunity to focus upon academics and it also allows us to work on fundamentals and conditioning."
Freitag thinks this off-season might have been her team's best, noting the excellent work in the team's strength and conditioning center.
"We are stronger than we were early last fall and our fitness level has increased," Freitag says with satisfaction. "The weather has been good and as a result we have had productive practices. We need to get back into tournament mode and get our golf legs back. Arizona will provide that challenge in that we play 36 holes the first day -- 10 hours of competitive golf."
Vanderbilt has been one of the teams to watch this year, bolting from the pack with a seniorless squad to gain Top 10 berths by both Golfweek and Golfstat services.
Despite working on "swing changes" throughout the fall, junior pre-season All-America Chris Brady still managed to place well enough to be rated 37th by Golfweek with a 71.99 average. With added confidence in her game due to the fall's hard work, most observers believe Brady will jump in the individual rankings much the same as the team did last fall.
Jacqui Concolino, a freshman, is ranked just below Brady at No. 40. The Orlando product showed signs her game is ready, shooting 69 in qualifying with a round that included eight birdies.
The Wildcat Invitational is a premier event with many Pac-10 and western powers in the field as well as some of the best Southeastern and Atlantic Coast teams as well. The teams will play two rounds Monday and conclude Tuesday. Fans can follow the action live on golfstat.com.
Vanderbilt is paired in the first round with host Arizona, No. 1 Duke and Georgia. The Commodores won the team title here in 2004 while UCLA is the defending champion.
The entire tournament field: Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Duke, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Pepperdine, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, UNLV, USC, Vanderbilt and Washington.