How does a team follow up the best season in its history, one that ended with a national No. 2 ranking and featured an entire five-person squad of All-American athletes?
For the Lady Raiders of Seminole State College of Florida, they go for No. 1.
“We could be right in the thick of it for a high finish, but my goal is to win nationals,” says Raider Head Coach Christa Teno.
High expectations are nothing new at Seminole State. Last year’s national runner-up finish is the highlight of the program’s five-year history, but the Raiders also have notched one third-place national finish and ended two seasons ranked No. 4. But Teno is not satisfied.
“As well as our whole team did last year,” Teno says, “on paper, we might be even better this year.”
Anchored this year by three returning golfers, Seminole State looks as strong as ever. Two of the three returning students – Joanna Yoo, of Orange Park, Fla.; and Victoria Choi, of Langley, British Columbia – participated in last year’s National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship tournament and earned All-American honors. The third sophomore, Stormy Staton, of Crawfordsville, Ind., is a natural team leader, Teno says.
But it might be the talented incoming class of freshmen that provides the spark to put the Raiders over the top. Already, freshman Phon Angwarawong, of Mueang Khon Kaen, Thailand, is rated as the NJCAA’s No. 3 golfer, with an average round score just a fraction of a stroke north of 74.
“We already have one of the top individual golfers in the nation, which is amazing,” Teno says. “Phon is crazy good – she works and works and works. Pound for pound, she probably hits the ball further than anyone in the country. She’s very perceptive, very aware of her responsibility and value to the team.”
In the first tournament this season – the Raiders have played four so far – Angwarawong had a third-round score of 67. According to Golfstat.com, that’s tied for the best round any golfer in the NJCAA has hit so far this year.
Teno also will look to freshmen Essence Biggs, of Beverly Hills, Mich.; Kellianne May, of Dade City, Fla.; and Kelsey Jensen, of Plant City, Fla., to play vital roles during the season. Teno says the three of them have all improved noticeably since they started at Seminole State.
It’s obvious that Teno, fresh off being named the LPGA Southeast Section Coach of the Year for the second time, has high expectations for her team. But she says the goals are attainable – and she’s doing everything she can to prepare the team for greatness.
“Compared to previous years, I have the team in deeper tournaments this year against better teams,” Teno says. “It’s about helping them get better – playing against tougher competition encourages them to improve – but it’s also about helping them get noticed so they can be recruited after they’re finished at Seminole State.”
Seminole State will also host its first tournament, set for March at Magnolia Plantation Golf Club in Lake Mary, in conjunction with the University of Detroit Mercy. Teno hopes this tournament will become a yearly event and earn the Lady Raiders more regional and national prestige.
The Lady Raiders already have competed in four tournaments this year, and the results are encouraging. Teno says the individual scores are as good as, or better than, they were on average at this point last season. For the second tournament, Seminole State finished within striking distance of the top five out of a strong field of teams, and the Raiders played without two of their top golfers. And in the fourth tournament, they recorded the second-best single-round team score en route to a No. 4 finish – and just two strokes out of second – among the field of 17 teams.
“The first semester has never been strong for us, if you look at the numbers, because some of the girls are still getting used to the college-level competition and practice,” Teno says. “But during the second semester, things can really take off fast.”
For more information and a complete tournament schedule, please visit the Raider women's golf home page.