Renee Slone begins her eighth season at the helm of the Illinois women's golf program.
Sep 8, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The 2013-14 edition of the Illinois women's golf team is set to debut this coming Monday as head coach Renee Slone enters her eighth year at the helm of the program. Slone will be joined by new assistant coach Jenny Coluccio, who joins after three seasons as the head coach at the University of Sioux Falls.
The Orange and Blue are looking to rebound after a disappointing 2012-13 campaign that has the team eager to start the new season. The recharged Fighting Illini will look to return to the NCAA Regionals since back to back trips in 2011 and 2012.
"Last season was a year of growth and development," said Slone. "We were a relatively young squad in regards to college tournament experience."
This year Illinois will be without the services of Crystal Smith and Kaitlyn Wampler, who both graduated last spring. Yet, the squad welcomes back six returnees in the form of junior Erin Ahern, red-shirt junior Jacqueline Calamaro, junior Michelle Mayer, red-shirt junior Sam Postillion, senior Ember Schuldt and junior Pimploy Thirati. The Illini will also usher in two freshman, Stephanie Miller and Emily Joers.
Schuldt, the lone senior on the team, led the Illini with a 76.90 stroke average over 30 rounds last season. She also led the team in four tournaments and finished second among her teammates in four additional contests. Schuldt currently sits in third place on the Illinois all-time career stroke average list with a 76.92
"Ember has spent a great amount of time focusing on her short game this summer and reaped the rewards from those efforts. She realizes this is a key area for her to continue to focus on and is excited to take it to a new level this year and have a record breaking grand finale to her college career."
Last year Mayer was part of the Academic All-Big Ten team. She took part in 10 tournaments as a sophomore, averaging 80.50 strokes over 30 rounds.
"Michelle went through a swing change this summer and is in the process of taking it to the course. Excited to push and challenge the team to raise the bar, dream big and set a new standard of excellence."
Another member of last season's Academic All-Big Ten team, Calamaro is one of two Illini to compete in all 11 tournaments. She posted a career-low of 71 (-1) in the second round at the Colonel Wollenberg's Ram Classic.
"Jackie spent time fine tuning her swing this summer and is ready to put it to the test in competition. She brings a lot of energy and passion to the team."
Postillion finished second on the team with a 77.06 stroke average over 33 rounds. She led the Illini last fall, averaging 76.73 strokes in five tournaments.
"Sam gained a lot of confidence by playing a full schedule of tournaments this summer as those experiences will serve her well this year. She is a grinder and finds a way to get it done."
Thirati shot under par for the first time in the third round of the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invite last season, hitting a 71 (-1) to move into 37th place with a team-leading 225 (+9), the best Illini tournament total of last fall's season. Rounding out the junior class is Erin Ahern who joined the team following fall 2012 competition, and did not participate in any spring events.
"Erin had an amazing experience as an intern at Boeing this summer and is applying a number of those teamwork concepts within our team dynamic. Really goes above and beyond to assist her teammates. Even with her busy work schedule this summer, she still qualified for the US Women's Public Link Championship."
Emily Joers, a four-time First-Team All-State selection and a two-time Wisconsin co-player of the year begins her career with the Illini this fall. Joers was also a PGA Junior Series Champion and accomplished five AJGA top-ten finishes in her high school career.
"Emily is excited to be a part of team striving to achieve new heights together. Being a part of team success is a driving motivator for her."
Stephanie Miller is a two-time Illinois State Champion in addition to achieving All-State honors for all four years in high school. The Wauconda, Ill. native was also a three-time Illinois Junior Golf Association Player of the Year, a two-time Junior PGA and Junior World qualifier and earned three AJGA top-ten finishes.
"Stephanie is ready to rewrite the record book and excited to be challenged on a daily basis and will be constantly pushing the team to the next level."
The Orange and Blue stayed busy this summer, playing in several tournaments across the country as Slone acknowledged the experience gained especially from Schuldt and Postillion.
"Ember played in the premier women's amateur event in the world so that was a great experience for her. Sam finished in the top-25 at the Trans National Amateur Championship and was leading heading into the final round at the Illinois Women's Open. It was a great learning experience that she will use to her advantage the next time she puts herself in that position.
Illinois will once again travel to Windsor, Colorado to kickoff their season with the Ptarmigan Classic. The 54 hole tournament will be a 17 team field played over the course on Sept. 9 and 10. The low four individual scores will determine the team scores for each round. Live scoring can be found at golfstat.com.
"This is a great event for us to kick off the season as the golf course presents a number of scoring opportunities. The beginning of a new season always brings much excitement as we start with a completely blank slate and can write our own story for this season. It is a new beginning with endless opportunities. The team understands the importance of setting high standards for themselves and each other and raising the bar. It takes an entire team working together and doing the 'extras' to achieve great success and everyone needs to hold each other accountable in that process."
Competing in the first tournament this season will be Ember Schuldt, Sam Postillion, Stephanie Miller, Emily Joers and Jackie Calamaro.