Season Preview: Mountain Lions Looking for Return to Nationals
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs golf coach Phil Trujillo and his Mountain Lions have made themselves a tough act to follow. UCCS has won three consecutive Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships and, this past season, finished 12th in the nation.
"It's difficult to follow up on the season that we had last year," said Trujillo. "There's a lot that goes with the level of play that we have been able to continue throughout these years."
That level of play has included being a national contender. This past season, the Mountain Lions climbed as high as second place on the leaderboard in the final round at the 2008 NCAA Division II National Championship in Houston but slipped all the way to 12th on the back nine.
"We were very disappointed at nationals; we were better than that," said Trujillo. "We had the right guys in place, we were mentally strong, physically fit, there was no reason we shouldn't have been in the top five. (It was a) huge letdown and disappointment to the team."
The lingering bitter taste has the Mountain Lions champing at the bit for a return trip.
"We talked about that in the beginning of the season," said Trujillo. "We got together as a team and our goals remain the same: win conference, win regionals, and get back to the national championship.
"Our biggest goal as a team is to raise our level of play at all times, especially during those tournaments that really mean a lot."
Trujillo certainly has the talent available to do just that. Three starters, senior Tyler Bishop, junior David Cosel and sophomore Brian Morfeld, return from last year's squad that competed at nationals. Bishop, a senior, had an impressive 73.29 stroke average in 2007-08. Cosel was close behind at 73.94, while Morfeld came in at 75.32 in his freshman season.
The trio is very talented and the experience of playing on the national stage a year ago should make them that much better.
"We have to have guys like David Cosel and Brian Morfeld comfortable playing to a higher level if we're going to compete for the national championship," said Trujillo.
Since you need five to make a team, he's also going to need contributions from at least two others. The Mountain Lions chances are greatly enhanced by the quality of the players who will be vying for those spots.
Through qualifying rounds, Riley Andrews has been the most impressive. A sophomore transfer from CU-Boulder, Andrews was a highly-recruited player out of ThunderRidge High School and competed in two tournaments as a freshman with the Division I Buffaloes.
"Watching him play in qualifying rounds so far gives the team a very good feeling that we're in good shape having him on board," said Trujillo.
The Mountain Lions also brought in two players who already have already experienced the pressure of a national championship competition. Wade Henry and Chris Shoop transferred to UCCS from Chandler-Gilbert Community College in the Phoenix area, where they both played at the junior college national championship tournament. Henry finished 25th and Shoop 35th.
"Both of them, though, need to learn how to play at this level," said Trujillo. "Division II is a huge step up from what they're used to, and when you have the caliber of team that we have, they really have to step up.
"Their eyes really lit up after the first qualifying round when they saw some numbers in the 60s. It showed them where they were and where they needed to be."
Also in the mix will be Taylor Stamp, a transfer from Division I Southern Utah, and two returning redshirt freshmen, Kevin Chan and Mitch Buchner.
"Our biggest surprise so far throughout our qualifying rounds has been Kevin Chan," said Trujillo. "He really worked hard on his game this summer and he's right in the hunt for one of the five spots."
That much competition will keep everyone improving, including the returning players.
"We're taking now three guys from that team last year that went (to the Division II national championship), two guys that have (junior college) national championship experience in Wade and Chris, and bringing in Riley Andrews," said Trujillo. "We're going to go for it again.
"It appears like we have very good team chemistry and exceptional young men that all believe and want to achieve that same goal: getting back to that national championship and getting us a national championship."
What an encore that would be.
|Additional News Stories|
|June 18, 2009||Trujillo Named Regional Coach of the Year||Phil Trujillo of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was named the NCAA Division II Central Region Golf Coach of the Year.|
|June 10, 2009||Bishop Named RMAC All-Time Top Golfer, Joins Hocking on All-Time Golf Team||Tyler Bishop of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference all-time top golfer, while fellow UCCS alum Marc Hocking was named to the conference's all-time golf team, the RMAC announced Wednesday.|
|May 22, 2009||Mountain Lions Finish National Championship Tournament in 16th Place||Tyler Bishop birdied two of his final five holes to shoot a 4-over par 75 in Friday's final round as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs finished 16th at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf National Championship.|
|May 21, 2009||Mountain Lions Remain in 16th After Third Round at Nationals||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs remained in 16th place at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship by shooting a 24-over par 308 in Thursday's third round.|
|May 20, 2009||UCCS Rises Three Places in Standings at NCAA Division II National Championship||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs improved 14 strokes from Tuesday's first round but that was good enough only to land them in 16th after Wednesday's second round at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship at Loomis Trail Golf Club.|