Previewing the 2018 Women's Golf Spring Season

Previewing the 2018 Women's Golf Spring Season

FOREST, Va. --- Women's golf has been an official ODAC sport for a little less than six years. Despite the relatively short track record, conference athletes have shot up the charts and challenged the best NCAA Division III has to offer. The level of exposure reached a whole new level last season.

Bridgewater College senior Christina Herbert (then a junior) turned her second straight individual selection to the NCAA Tournament field of 116 players into a national championship. She won by two strokes over Wittenberg's Macy Hubbard and Rhodes' Nikki Isaacson after four days at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas. The title also set her up to be named the Women's Golf Coaches Assocation (WGCA) Division III Player of the Year.

The league's success, however, has not been limited to Herbert. Liza Freed, also then a junior at Washington and Lee University, also made her second straight individual appearance and third consecutive overall showing in a national field in 2017. Injury limited her last season and resulted in a tie for 49th, but that came on the heels of two straight finishes in 18th position in 2015 and 2016. She was joined by her full squad in the former season's event, marking the first team qualification for an ODAC women's squad in the short conference history of the sport.

RELATED: 2017 NCAA Results | 2016 NCAA Results | 2015 NCAA Results

The 2017 fall season showed us what could be in store for the spring campaign. When it comes to team rankings, Washington and Lee is the cream of the crop as the Generals sit 11th in the Golfstat.com Division III computer ratings. That sucess is due to a deep rotation that ranks 2-6 on the ODAC averages chart. Senior Mary Frances Hall leads the charge with a 75.6 per round scoring average, second-best in the conference. That, along with individual medalist honors at the Golfweek Fall Invational, has helped her to fourth position in the Golfstat individual player rankings. Newcomer Hannah Jones is rated 44th by Golfstat and third (79.3) on the ODAC average table. Freed makes it four golfers in the Golfstat top-100 as she's slotted 99th in the country and fourth (81.4) in the ODAC. Another first-year athlete, Beth Ann Townsend, is fifth (82.0) in the league, while 2017 ODAC Rookie of the Year, Griffin Foultz, is sixth (83.1).

Herbert is still entrenched at the top of the ODAC charts coming into the spring. The senior is ranked #2 by Golfstat and owns the league's best per round average at 73.1. In five fall starts, Herbert placed in the top-five each time and won medalist honors on three occasions at the Green Turtle Invitational, Bridgewater Fall Invitational, and Generals Invitational.

Bridgewater, at #63, is one of two other ODAC squads ranked in Golfstat's top-100. In addition to Herbert's contributions, Amanda Kelley is ninth in the league in scoring at 84.1, while Casey Gaffner is 12th at 85.7.

Randolph-Macon sits 74th in the national rankings, powered by three ODAC top-10 averages. Emmy Saathoff and Liza Lewis sit seventh and eighth at 83.3 and 83.4, respectively. Colleen Connolly is 10th at 84.4. Aven Oliver (87.0) got a lot of work in the fall and looks to crack the top-10.

Shenandah University is the next full squad looking to move up the ODAC ladder. Madison Ngo (91.2), Emily Conrad (94.4), Katie Davis (96.7), and McKenzie Slattery (100.6) all look to improve upon their fall campaigns in buildup to the conference championship. The same can be said for Hollins University, which is looking to rebuild under veteran Michelle DuCom (110.0) following the graduation of three seniors last spring.

Eastern Mennonite University and Virginia Wesleyan University may not have a full squads just yet, but their players have been putting up good numbers. EMU's Olyvia Longacre is 13th in the league at 86.0 in six rounds. VWU is led by Maggie Kingora, who is 11th in the conference at 85.1 thru eight rounds of fall competition. Teammate Hannah Turner is just a few spots back at 87.6.

Emory & Henry College kicked off its first season with several solid events. Look for players like Ashley Underwood (100.7) and Sierra Giramma (109.3) to continue to improve with more rounds under their belts.

Sweet Briar College competed in just two events in the fall, so look for the Vixens to ramp up competition in their second spring as a unit.

RELATED: ODAC Fall Statistics | Golfstat Team Rankings | Golfstat Individual Rankings

Play for conference teams begins Monday and Tuesday, March 5-6, as the conference's nine squads begin a varied slate of events prior to the conference championships. Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center in Greensboro, N.C., will be the venue for this season's championships. Three rounds of action is slated for April 22-24.

For more information on ODAC women's golf, visit any of the participating school's websites, or go to the ODAC's home on the Internet at www.odaconline.com.  Don't forget to become a fan of the ODAC on Facebook and followed @odacathletics on Twitter and Instagram.