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Maryland women’s golf looks to build on its 2019 NCAA Tournament appearance

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State of the Program continues with an up-and-coming Terps team.

Maryland women’s golf Virunpat Olankitkunchai Maryland Athletics

It’s the middle of the Maryland sports offseason, and we’re still recapping a wild year for Terrapin athletics. There were national championships in men’s soccer and women’s lacrosse, and a trip to the title game in field hockey. Maryland athletes won some of the highest honors in their sports. But there were also some lows, both on and off the field.

This summer, we’ve been taking an in-depth look at each of Maryland’s varsity programs, exploring where they’ve been and where they’re going. We’ve hit nine sports so far, and now it’s time to turn our focus to women’s golf, which snapped a seven-year NCAA Tournament drought this past season.

Maryland women’s golf

Established: 2000
Best season: 2009-10 (2 team wins, 2 individual wins, NCAA regionals)
Last 5 years: 1 team win, 2 individual wins, 1 team NCAA regionals appearance, 1 individual NCAA nationals appearance
The coach: Diana Cantu (entering 6th season)
2018-19: 1 team runner-up; 3 individual runners-up; T-8th at Big Ten tournament; 7th of 18 at NCAA regionals

Where it’s been

This is Maryland’s youngest active varsity sport, with just two decades of history on record. In 19 seasons, the Terps have made five NCAA Tournaments and been represented by an individual in four others. Maryland has also had four multi-win seasons as a team. But until this spring, the Terps hadn’t reached the postseason as a group since 2012.

Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland has mostly been middle-of-the-pack, finishing eighth or ninth in three of five conference tournaments, with a T-2 and a last-place finish serving as the outliers. However, the last two years have exhibited clear progress as a program. Maryland picked up a team win early in 2017-18 and finished with that runner-up Big Ten tournament finish, and the consistency came the following year.

This past season, Maryland earned a No. 13 seed in the Auburn regional despite not recording a win and falling to T-8 at the conference championship. The Terps almost made a stunning run to nationals, as they finished seventh out of 18 teams, just three strokes behind Tennessee for the sixth and final spot. Sophomore Virunpat Olankitkunchai became the first Terp to make nationals as an individual, finishing T-43.

Where it’s going

With an upward trend and the majority of the lineup coming back, there’s reason for optimism about the 2019-20 season and beyond. The 2018-19 team featured three sophomores who were regulars in the lineup, and the trio should become Maryland’s driving force over the next two seasons.

Cantu has stepped up international recruiting efforts in recent years, and several of those players have been sold on the idea of attending school near Washington, D.C. If Maryland can become a regular contender in the Big Ten, the pitch becomes even easier for the future.

Names to know

Olankitkunchai will be the headliner for (presumably) the next two seasons, as she looks to turn her strong finish to 2018-19 into a dominant junior campaign. But Maryland returns five of its six most frequently used players from last season, losing only former Women’s British Open participant Ludovica Farina and fellow Italian Ludovica Scandroglio.

Rising junior Laura Van Respaille picked up a win in her first semester, capturing the Nittany Lion Invite in September 2017. Junior Charlotte Lafourcade and senior Xiaolin Tian posted solid scoring averages of 73.80 and 74.89 last season, respectively. And incoming freshman Maria Vittoria Corbi (from Italy) comes in as the No. 397 girls’ amateur in the world — not far behind Olankitkunchai at No. 282. At the 2018 Biarritz Cup, Corbi shot a stellar 66-62-66-67 (-15) to win the title by 11 strokes; Lafourcade finished second.

The mission

Maryland wasn’t a top-25 team at really any point last year, but nearly playing its way into nationals should give this team plenty of confidence heading into the fall. The Terps have enough talent and experience returning to make another NCAAs run in the near future. And if enough players take the next step, that run could easily come in 2019-20.