Mountain Lions on Prowl for National Title
NOTE: This story is reposted with permission from Colorado Golf Journal. To check it out, go to: Colorado Golf Journal
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs doesn't have a huge budget for its men's golf program. It doesn't have a coach whose only job is overseeing the golf team. And it doesn't have highly touted players from all over the country and/or world.
What the Mountain Lions do have is one of the best teams in the nation in NCAA Division II golf.
UCCS proved that in early May by not only winning its NCAA regional tournament, but dominating a field that included six teams ranked higher in Division II. In fact, the Mountain Lions' 23-stroke victory was the second-largest of the 10 NCAA regional champions.
Next up for UCCS is its third trip to the NCAA Division II finals, May 14-17 in Houston, where the Colorado school could make some noise nationally.
"The depth of this team is incredible," said senior Todd Napikoski, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference's Player of the Year. "We're the deepest team in Division II. If we were at the Division I level, we'd be up there with the best teams. ... We're not thinking about anything but winning (the national title). We think we can win the whole thing, but we can't win by just playing decent."
The Mountain Lions' roster, which consists exclusively of players from Colorado high schools, boasts three transfers from Division I programs Napikoski (New Mexico State), junior Tyler Bishop (Nebraska) and junior David Cosel (Kansas).
UCCS has three players with season-long stroke averages under 74, and all five members of the NCAA tournament squad average under 76. Those numbers would be the envy of many Division I teams. In fact, when UCCS competed in a Division I field at a season-opening invitational at the Air Force Academy, the Mountain Lions finished seventh out of 18 teams. And they were one spot ahead of Colorado State, which recently won the Mountain West Conference championship.
The Mountain Lions entered the regional tournament ranked among the top 30 Division II programs in the nation, but in overpowering a half-dozen higher-ranked teams in the regional meet, they're salivating for a national title.
"The ultimate goal is to win nationals when you're going up against the best of the best," said UCCS coach Phil Trujillo, recently named the RMAC Coach of the Year. "Hopefully we can finish on top. But realistically, if we're in the top three or four teams and have a chance to win, we'll know we've played our best."
Twenty teams earned spots in the NCAA finals, and if the Mountain Lions crack the top nine, it will be their best finish there ever.
Competing in Houston for UCCS will be Napikoski (72.89 stroke average this season), Bishop (73.48), Cosel (73.89), RMAC Freshman of the Year Brian Morfeld (75.52) and senior Eric Winder (75.71). Napikoski, Bishop and Cosel tied for third place individually in the regional tournament.
"This is by far the deepest we've ever been," Trujillo said. "We have five thoroughbreds who can come out playing and do a lot of good. We don't have one of those guys who stands out and grabs attention. We have five who do that. We haven't had five good scores all at once yet, but we hope that's about to happen."
The Mountain Lions will take a three-tournament win streak into the national meet, but still don't think they've hit peak form.
"We haven't really clicked," Napikoski said. "If we click, no one can beat us. It's nice knowing that if we play well we can take home the team title."
Said Trujillo: "If we ever show up together, it could be scary."
Coaching UCCS is just one of Trujillo's jobs. He's also the director of junior golf and works on the finances at Eisenhower Golf Club, where he's been employed for the last 17 years. At UCCS, he jokes that he gets "part-time pay and full-time responsibilities. I've probably been at Eisenhower only about 10 days in the last two months."
But at least Trujillo's job as a recruiter will be easier with UCCS' recent success.
"Winning the conference (for the third straight year) and the regional, and rankings help us greatly in recruiting," he said. "Everyone wants a chance to win a national championship."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
|Additional News Stories|
|June 17, 2008||Trujillo Adds Two Recruits to Nationally-Ranked Golf Program||Looking to deepen a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs golf team that finished 12th nationally this past season, coach Phil Trujillo announced Tuesday the signing of two recruits. Joining the Mountain Lions for the 2008-09 season will be Riley Andrews, a transfer from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and Wade Henry, a transfer from Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona.|
|May 23, 2008||Napikoski Named Honorable Mention All-American||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs golfer Todd Napikoski was named NCAA Division II Ping All-American honorable mention, the Golf Coaches Association of American announced Friday.|
|May 17, 2008||UCCS Finishes National Championship in 12th Place||A promising start Saturday went sour quickly as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs finished the 2008 NCAA Division II National Championship tied for 12th place.|
|May 16, 2008||UCCS Slips to Sixth After Third Round of NCAA Golf Nationals||Tyler Bishop shot an even-par 70, but the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs slipped into a tie for sixth place after Friday's third round at the NCAA Division II National Championship at Memorial Park Golf Course.|
|May 15, 2008||Trujillo Named Northwest Region Coach of the Year||Phil Trujillo, coach of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springsâ€™ nationally-ranked golf program, was named Eaton Golf Pride Division II Northwest Region Coach of the Year, the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) announced Thursday.|