When the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last teed it up for a conference championship, UW-Whitewater would not be denied. Again.
The Warhawks rolled to the team title with a 54-hole total 933, a WIAC record, and become just the second school to win the conference championship three years in a row. UW-Eau Claire did it twice between 2004 and 2011.
The WIAC, the only NCAA Division III conference in Wisconsin with exclusively Wisconsin schools, returns to Reedsburg Country Club this weekend for the WIAC Championship, which was postponed last fall due to COVID-19. Here is how things have changed for the eight schools in the WIAC since they last competed in this event:
Where they were: Junior Jessica Rudnicki shot 81-74-82 and finished seventh as the Blugolds shot 334-326-330 and finished fourth at the 2019 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship at Reedsburg CC. Junior Anna Uzpen shot 80-79-81 and finished tied for 10th for Eau Claire, which finished third for the third time in the last four years.
Where they are: Uzpen is no longer on the roster, but the Blugolds picked up a huge transfer in January when former Eau Claire Memorial golfer Lexi Meade transferred into the program. Meade, a sophomore who spent one season at NCAA Division I Drake after initially committing to UW-Green Bay, gives Eau Claire a WIAC medalist contender and forms as good a 1-2 punch with Rudnicki as any school in the conference. However, the Blugolds will need some help from the back of the lineup to make a run at a team title.
Projected finish: Third.
Where they were: Sophomore Maija Tanberg, a transfer from Arkansas-Monticello, shot 83-80-80 to finish tied for 13th as UW-La Crosse (353-342-348) finished sixth with a 1,043 total. She was the only Eagles golfer to finish in the top 30 in the program's second appearance in the WIAC Championship since women's golf was added at the school.
Where they are: Freshman Andrea Schleeper (83.4) and junior Molly Larsen (83.8), who spent her first two seasons at UW-River Falls, will play the Nos. 2 and 3 spots for the Eagles behind Tanberg (83.8) to give La Crosse as much firepower atop the lineup as any school in the WIAC. Freshman Grace Ellison (88.8) and senior Leah Sindberg (89.4) will have to be at their best in the Nos. 4 and 5 spot, however, for the Eagles to have a shot at dethroning UW-Whitewater.
Projected finish: Second.
Where they were: Senior Hannah Braun (82-78-79), the 2018 WIAC champion, finished ninth as UW-Oshkosh shot 328-328-331 to finished third with 987 total, three shots ahead of UW-Eau Claire in the scramble for third place behind UW-Whitewater (933) and UW-Stout (941). Sophomore Margherite Pettenuzzo and senior Diana Scheibe finished tied for 13th, but Scheibe was competing individually for coach Liza Ruetten and did not factor into the team score.
Where they are: Ruetten retired a year ago and has been replaced by Beth Hubbard, who inherited a roster missing four seniors who graduated after the 2019-20 season and won't have the services of junior Erika Priebe, an accounting major who — like her sister Kayla, the 2015 WIAC runner-up — typically balances golf with working for her family's accounting firm in the spring. Absent Priebe, who finished seventh at the WIAC Championship as a freshman and 19th as a sophomore, the Titans will rely heavily on Pettenuzzo to extend their run of seven consecutive top-four finishes.
Projected finish: Fifth.
Where they were: Sophomore Markie Ash, a transfer from UW-Stout, shot 79-74-80 to finish tied for fourth as UW-Platteville (333-340-333) finished fifth with a 1,006 total, the program's best 54-hole total at the WIAC Championship by 25 strokes. Junior Kaley Mumma shot 85-84-80 and finished 18th, the Pioneers' only other finisher in the top 25. Ash's finish was the program's best since 2015 when Stephanie Baribeau finished third at Lake Arrowhead GC near Nekoosa.
Where they are: Pioneers coach Matt Bohlken, who replaced longtime coach Pete Reif in 2017, resigned recently, leaving the team to be guided on an interim basis by longtime Cuba City girls basketball coach Jeff Pustina, now an assistant coach for the school's women's basketball team. Ash returns for her third WIAC Championship, but Mumma is not competing this spring, leaving Platteville with a 96.25 scoring average among the other four golfers behind Ash in the lineup, according to statistics on the school's Website.
Projected finish: Seventh.
Where they were: Junior Danielle DeWitt (16th) and senior Paige Isensee (20th) both finished in the top 20, but UW-River Falls (366-351-343) struggled to a seventh-place showing, its lowest since 2015. The Falcons' next two finishers — freshman Sydney Hufnagle (24th) and junior Allison Raffetto (42nd) — both competed as individuals.
Where they are: DeWitt is back for her fourth WIAC Championship with an 87.60 stroke average in five rounds that leads the team. River Falls' seven other golfers making the trip to Reedsburg all average between 90 and 98.25, but only junior Ashlyn Werner has broken 90 in a round this spring.
Projected finish: Eighth.
Where they were: Sophomore Brooke Tuszka shot 84-80-89 to finish tied for 21st as UW-Stevens Point (367-369-359) finished last in the eight-team field for the third time in the last four years. Tuszka was the Pointers' only finisher inside the top 40.
Where they are: Diane Gilbert, a long-time assistant in the women's basketball program, was named women's golf coach last summer, the third in as many seasons at UWSP. She has wasted no time restoring the Pointers roster from five golfers last season to nine this spring. Topping the list of newcomers is junior Bree Downie, who transferred in after playing six events in two seasons at NCAA Division II Winona (Minn.) State. She has averaged 82.0 in six rounds this spring. Tuszka, Grace Eide and Andrea Tietz, a freshman from Watertown, give the Pointers three other golfers capable of breaking 90 behind Tuszka.
Projected finish: Sixth.
Where they were: Seniors Trystin Kluess and Madison McCambridge finished 1-2 as UW-Stout shot 318-316-307 and, with a 941 total, finished second to UW-Whitewater for the third year in a row. Freshmen Klarissa O'Reilly-Dye (12th) and Kendra Swanson (23rd) and senior Alexa Filipiak (17th) also finished in the top 25 for the Blue Devils.
Where they are: Eight-time WIAC coach of the year Howie Samb retired in December, turning the program over to men's coach Andrew Delong, who came to Menomonie in 2019 after a successful run in the high school ranks at Sheboygan North. COVID-19 concerns prompted O'Reilly-Dye, the WIAC's inaugural Newcomer of the Year in 2019, to transfer to the University of Wisconsin to be closer to family in Madison. That left Delong with a four-player roster highlighted by two talented freshmen in Abbey Filipiak, the younger sister of Alexa whose 80.60 stroke average leads the team by nearly nine shots, and Sofie Morin. Swanson and fellow sophomore Grace Warrner round out the lineup for the Blue Devils, who would likely need all four to play to their potential on the same day — something that hasn't happened yet this spring — to have any kind of a shot at the program's fifth consecutive top-two finish.
Projected finish: Fourth.
Where they were: Seniors CheyAnn Knudsen (third), Ashley Hofmeister (T-4), Kristin Bowe (sixth) and Kelly Storti (eighth) and sophomore Ashton Sinak (T-10), the 2019 WIAC player of the year, all finished in the top 10 as UW-Whitewater shot 314-314-305 and won its third straight WIAC team title with a conference-record 933 total over the 54-hole event. It was the third straight top-four finish for Knudsen, who came to the Warhawks in 2017 after spending her freshman year at Carthage College.
Where they are: Denied an opportunity to compete at the 2020 NCAA Division III Championship after it was cancelled by COVID-19, Knudsen, Bowe and Storti all took advantage of extra eligibility granted by the NCAA to come back for their fifth seasons. They make Whitewater the overwhelming favorite to become the first school to win four consecutive WIAC championships. Knudsen, Sinak, Storti and Bowe will fill the top four spots for the Warhawks while Lily Sheppard, a sophomore from Kaukauna, will take over the fifth spot after finishing tied for 33rd at the WIAC Championship as a freshman.
Projected finish: First.