June 8, 2009
Under head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, the Michigan State women's golf program has been one of the most successful and consistent programs in not only the Big Ten Conference, but the entire nation.
In 2008-09, the Spartans advanced to the NCAA Championships for the seventh time in the past 10 years, posting the program's second-best finish in school history by tying for 13th place. Michigan State has also earned a berth in the NCAA Regionals for 11 consecutive years, which is the third-longest streak in the Big Ten. The Spartans, who have won two Big Ten titles in Slobodnik-Stoll's tenure and eight overall in program history, placed second at this year's Big Ten Championships, marking the sixth straight year MSU has finished in the top three at Big Ten's.
Individually, Laura Kueny became the program's 10th All-American, as her 74.50 season scoring average ranked third all-time in program history. She posted six top-five and eight top-10 finishes in the team's 12 stroke play events this season, leading the team in eight of those outings, and was named a first-team All-Big Ten selection for the second straight season. Her career stroke average of 74.90 is currently the best in Michigan State history.
In addition to Kueny, freshman Lindsey Solberg was also an NGCA All-Central Region pick. Solberg was second on the team with a 76.81 scoring average and led the Spartans at both the NCAA Central Regional, where she finished sixth, and the NCAA Championships with a tie for 39th. Solberg and sophomore Aimee Neff were each named to the All-Big Ten second team.
During Slobodnik-Stoll's 12 years as head coach of the program, her players have earned All-Big Ten honors 25 times and All-America accolades four times. As a team, she has led the Spartans to 11 straight NCAA Regional appearances (1999-2009), seven trips to the NCAA Championships (2000-03, 2005, 2007, 2009) and two Big Ten titles (2001, 2007). MSU has won 23 tournaments during this span, including a victory at the 2008 Mary Fossum Invitational at Forest Akers West in September.
Slobodnik-Stoll recently talked about the past season at a stop on the MSU Coaches on the Road Tour in Grand Rapids.
Q: Heading into the season, the goal is always to reach the NCAA Championships, and your team did that again this year for the seventh time in your career. Have you had time to look back and reflect on this past season?
A: Our goal as a team was to finish in the Top 10, and I think at the end of the season our players really understood how realistic that was for us, especially with the emergence of freshman Shannon Warner, who played wonderful at the Big Ten Tournament as well as at Regionals. We were very close to meeting that goal; however, we still finished with the second-best finish in the history of our program at Michigan State.
Junior Laura Kueny was named an All-American, which makes two in a row with Sara Brown from last year. Freshman Lindsey Solberg and Laura Kueny were also named to the All-Central Regional team, and we had three players (Kueny, Solberg, Aimee Neff) who were named to the all-conference team as well. As a team we also finished with a 3.4 GPA overall.
Q: How was this year's experience at the NCAA Championships?
A: We tied for 13th place at nationals with one of the best schools in the country in Wake Forest, and we did it at a golf course where there were approximately eight Spartans on the superintendent staff. Because of this, we immediately felt at home when we walked on to the golf course at Caves Valley (at the NCAA Championships). There were Spartans cheering for us while we were out there and they were all wearing their green and white to show their support for us. The golf course was also just tremendous, and a real treat for us to play on. In six days of walking, I think I only saw one weed including the fairways and the rough. It was just a meticulously taken care of golf course so the experience was tremendous and the players really understood what an elite group of golfers they hold company with at the national championship.
I think we also saw from a team perspective that we cannot make mistakes because we had one poor round which cost us our goal in the end. However, it was a very good learning experience for us because we were playing with a junior, two sophomores and two freshmen who had never been to a national championship before. All in all, it was a great experience and I think all the student-athletes handled the pressure very well, and it's just another stepping stone for us to be a Top 10 team next year.
Q: You mentioned how young this team was and they still made it to nationals. How can the team build upon the experience from this year going into next season?
A: It's funny because on the way home from nationals it was my assistant, Lorne Don, and I talking on the airplane, saying, `OK, so when qualifying start for the fall?' The excitement continues to build and build, and as a coach you are always looking forward to the next day, the next round, or the next tournament.
I think it is spectacular that we continually bring in players that are succeeding both academically and athletically, and are players that are not only the best in the conference, but players that are becoming the best in the country as well. They are players that also want to play on tour, and I think we are becoming a breeding ground for LPGA Tour players who do go on to play on tour and are successful as well.
Right now is just a very exciting time for women's golf at Michigan State. We have established not only a wonderful base of donors that follow our program, but we also have some new facilities that we opened this year that we are very proud of, such as the Fox Family Putting Green and the heated hitting stalls at Forest Akers. These have both just been another feather in our cap not only from a recruiting perspective, but they have really made a difference with our current players as well. Our future is looking great. We are all smiling and are very proud of what we accomplished this year, not only for our program, but for the university as well.