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Womens team looks to keep streak

April 26, 2001

The women’s golf team is red-hot heading into Gopher-country for this weekend’s Big Ten Championship.

The Spartans, ranked 17th by MasterCard and 23rd by Golfweek, won the Indiana Invitational on April 8 and placed second out of 16 teams at the Lady Buckeye Invitational last weekend, falling one stroke short of host Ohio State.

Now, they set their sites on a conference title.

“I think our odds are very good,” junior Emily Bastel said. “We’re feeling confident and everyone’s games are coming around.”

The tournament starts at 8 a.m. Friday at the 5,979-yard Les Bolstad Golf Course in Minneapolis. Par on the course is 72. The final round starts at 8 a.m. Sunday.

MSU hopes to continue the upward progression that started with a third-place Big Ten finish in 1999 and a second-place finish last season. But to do that, the Spartans will have to fight through a tough group of top-level conference rivals.

“Ohio State, Northwestern and Purdue are the big ones,” said Bastel, the defending Big Ten individual champion. “We’ve gone on and off with them all year with us beating them and them beating us.

“To win a conference title in a conference as strong as the Big Ten would be a very big deal. We’ve been working toward this for a while.”

The Boilermakers smoked MSU at last year’s championship, topping the Spartans by 30 strokes (1167-1197) for the title.

But Bastel’s individual championship was a bright spot as the Spartans eventually went on to a tied-for-20th-place finish in the NCAA Championship to close the season.

This season, Bastel and junior Stacy Snider are both ranked in Golfweek’s top-50 collegiate women golfers - Bastel at No. 44 and Snider at No. 47.

But the biggest boost for the Spartans probably came from the emergence of freshman Allison Fouch as a solid complement to the star trio of Bastel, Snider and senior Kasey Gant.

Bastel, Snider, Gant, Fouch and freshmen Ann Marie Kersten and Sarah Martin will be MSU’s six competing golfers this weekend.

“We finally got a consistent fourth and that’s helped out a lot,” Gant said. “Nobody’s better than Michigan State, all of us just have to play well at the same time. I think we did that in the second round at (Indiana) and we played well at Ohio State last weekend.”

Gant said she’s disappointed in her personal inconsistent play this season, but thinks she might have started to turn it around with a fourth-place overall finish at the Lady Buckeye.

After the Big Ten Championship, the team can focus solely on winning the NCAA title. The NCAA Regionals are May 11-13, and the Spartans won’t know which regional they will be in until after the conference tournament.

Then, if they advance, the Spartans would take part in their second consecutive NCAA Championship at Howey-in-the-Hills in Florida from May 23-26.

But Bastel said the team is only thinking about the Big Ten title this weekend.

“We’re just taking it one step at a time,” Bastel said. “I think we have a good chance of advancing out of the NCAA Regional and, if we play great, we can win the national title.

“But I think shooting for a top-10 finish at the NCAAs would be a more realistic goal.”

Gant, the lone senior playing for MSU this weekend, said the team’s sense of urgency is starting to grow in the postseason.

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