UCCS Takes Second in Final Tuneup for RMAC Spring Championship
COLORADO SPRINGS - Although it was not their intent, the Mountain Lions have added some intrigue to next week's Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Spring Championship.
With a mix of sunshine and rip-roaring wind gusts that only a Colorado springtime can produce, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs shaved three strokes off of its first-day deficit Tuesday but ended up taking second, two strokes behind tournament winner Fort Lewis, at the Eisenhower Spring Invitational.
It was the second consecutive tournament during which UCCS finished behind another RMAC team. Western New Mexico finished ahead of the Mountain Lions at the Grand Canyon Spring Invitational, which was played March 29-30 in Goodyear, Ariz. In fall play, UCCS had a combined 19-0 record against other RMAC schools. The record is 7-2 so far this spring.
The two spring results have attached a question mark to UCCS' bid for a fifth consecutive RMAC title.
"We need to come to play," said UCCS junior Brian Morfeld, who was in second place overall after two rounds but slid to a tie for eighth in the third. "We can't have a couple of guys who show up to play and a couple of guys who don't."
In saying that, Morfeld was pointing the finger at himself and his disappointing third round on Tuesday. Every member of the Mountain Lions, though, had a couple of holes or even an entire round that they'd like to forget. Ironically, getting beat by a conference opponent in their home town might be exactly what they needed. There was disappointment Tuesday, to be certain, but there was much more a sense of grim determination germinating. By Monday, it could be in full bloom.
"We're very prepared," said Chris Shoop, also a junior. "For us it's time to quit making excuses and start playing well. We've put in all the work (and) it's time to start producing.
"We're playing lazy and assuming we're going to win. We've got to get hungry again."
UCCS will enter the tournament with an advantage, however. The Mountain Lions won the RMAC Fall Championship and, since the conference champion will be determined by the aggregate score of the two RMAC championship tournaments, the Mountain Lions carry that lead into next week's competition. UCCS leads Colorado school of Mines by seven strokes, followed by Western New Mexico (nine), Regis (10), Adams State (11), Fort Lewis (15), Nebraska-Kearney (17), Colorado Christian (18), CSU-Pueblo (27) and Mesa State (27).
The RMAC Spring Championship will be played on April 19-20 at Poston Butte Golf Club in Florence, Ariz., which is about 25 miles southeast of Tempe.
Shoop's 75 was the best score shot by a member of the Mountain Lions team in Tuesday's round. He and Morfeld each finished the tournament with a 7-over par 223, which was tied for eighth individually.
Riley Andrews and David Cosel each scored 224 to tie for 12th, while Spencer Biersdorff shot 225.
Central Oklahoma's Andrew Green grabbed individual medalist honors with a 1-under par 215, three strokes ahead of his nearest competition.
Team-wise, Colorado State-Pueblo took third with a score of 901, 14 strokes behind UCCS. Colorado Christian (905) was fourth, followed by Central Oklahoma (912), Regis (921), Colorado Mines (928), Nebraska-Kearney (940) and Mesa State (946).
UCCS coach Phil Trujillo may have to make some difficult decisions going into next week. His four golfers who were listed as individuals played so well that, if they had been entered as a team, would have placed fourth with a score of 903 and that's without being able to throw out the highest score of each round as a five-man squad does.
"Our concern right now is taking the right five guys to conference to try to get us another championship," said Trujillo, who has always believed in open competition for places in the lineup.
The leader of the UCCS squad was Mitch Buchner, who score a three-round score of 221 (5-over par), while Michael Tilghman carded a 223. Those two scores placed the duo fifth and tied for sixth respectively and were also the two best cumulative scores shot by a Mountain Lion.
The other two unattached Mountain Lions were Craig Pence, who was tied for 20th at 228 and Taylor Stamp, who was tied for 29th at 232.
Shoop will enter the RMAC Spring Championship with a little added pressure. He's tied with Colorado Mines' Jim Knous for the RMAC player of the year award. That award, like the team championship, will be based on the aggregate score of both RMAC tournaments
"It puts a little pressure on me but it (also) makes it worth playing," said Shoop. "I just want to play well. I'm going home; I'm from Arizona so I've got the home-field advantage."
UCCS also has an opportunity to wrap up the 2009-10 Steel & Silver Series and retain possession of the Ent Federal Credit Union Trophy. This season's Steel & Silver Series is on a new, "winner-take-all" points system. In each of the 10 intercollegiate athletics programs that both schools sponsor, the school that earns the most wins in head-to-head competition will be awarded four points. If the head-to-head competitions are split evenly, each school will be awarded two points. The school with the best cumulative grade point average among student-athletes in the school's common sports will also be awarded five points. The school with the most points at the end of the academic year will be awarded the Ent Federal Credit Union Trophy, with the presentation taking place in the home city of the winning school.
"I know that the trophy means a lot to the university, but our goal is obviously to beat everyone in the field," said Trujillo. "We don't go into any tournament the CSU-Pueblo also happens to be in and think gosh, we have to beat them."
"We go into tournaments thinking 'beat everybody'."
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