Cavaliers driven by past heading into NCAA Regionals
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- For the 16th time in program history, Virginia women's golf is playing into May with hopes of advancing to the NCAA Championships.
The Cavaliers are the No. 2 seed in Ann Arbor for next week's 54-hole regional with the top four teams from each regional moving on to the NCAA Championships. UVA will be looking to advance to the championships for the 12th time in the program's 19-year history, a goal they fell short of last season.
"Last year was definitely disappointing," senior golfer Beth Lillie said, "We had a talented team and we wish we would have finished differently at regionals, but I think it's been sort of a gift for our team to motivate us this whole year."
Virginia entered regionals last season ranked No. 11 in the country, but missed the cut by 9-strokes in Columbus. Lillie was the lone Cavalier to advance to the NCAA Championships where she finished ninth in stroke play.
This year UVA heads to Michigan ranked No. 8 in the country with a new approach and driven by last year's results.
"The motivation and the sting doesn't go away when you're 11th in the country and you don't advance," UVA head women's golf coach Ria Scott said, "It really leaves a big pit in your stomach, but like I said we're a really different squad."
In addition to Lillie returning, the Cavaliers are boosted by All-ACC performers Jennifer Cleary and Amanda Sambach, who became the first freshman to earn all-conference honors since Lillie in 2018. As a team, Virginia has five players ranked inside the top-200 rankings, according to Golfstat.
Even for new faces like Sambach, last season's shortcomings plays a key role.
"That's a big part that drives pretty much every single practice, every single tournament," Sambach said, "Really I think the mindset at tournaments is let's get this, let's come back from last year we're better than that."
The University of Michigan Golf Course will be familiar territory for Virginia, who opened their season at the Wolverine Invitational. Cleary (fourth) and Sambach (sixth) both finished inside the top-10, while the Cavaliers came in second only behind the hosts, Michigan.
The Cavaliers will head to Ann Arbor on May 9 with a familiarity with the course.
"Know that it's a marathon and not a sprint, but this is the tournament you prepare all year for," Lillie said.
In year four under Scott, who was recently named to the WGCA Coach of the Year watch list, the program continues to move forward with hopes of a return to NCAA Championships in a few weeks.
"We're drawing on those experiences, what can we learn from that," Scott said, "No stone unturned this coming week."