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Lady Raider golfers look to build on momentum

The 2013-14 Lady Raider women's golf team.

In its short, six-season history, the Seminole State College of Florida Lady Raiders golf program has established a tradition of consistent excellence. But with a wealth of talent and experience returning from the 2012-13 team that finished No. 3 at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship tournament, Head Coach Christa Teno says the pieces are in place to make the season a historic one.

“I think this could be our best team,” says Teno, who is entering her seventh year coaching the Lady Raiders. “It’s maybe the deepest, most talented team I’ve had.”

That’s high praise from the two-time LPGA Southeast Section Coach of the Year. Since Seminole State’s women’s golf program began in Teno’s first year, the Lady Raiders have notched top-five national rankings five times, including earning national runner-up honors two years ago. Teno says the team’s current iteration has national championship talent – but there is a lot of hard work to do to reach that potential.

“I’m optimistic about this year,” Teno says. “We have a really good team; the girls have great chemistry, and there’s a lot of maturity and talent all around. They really have meshed well – practice is fun. There’s a lot of competition, but also a lot of real enthusiasm to help each other out.”

The Raiders, with six sophomores, are led by sophomore Chanya “Phon” Angwarawong, who last year finished with NJCAA All-American honors as the No. 4-ranked golfer in the country. Angwarawong, who hails from Mueang Khon Kaen, Thailand, holds a Seminole State program record for the best single-round score, 67. Teno says pound-for-pound, at 5’6” and less than 125 pounds, no one in the country can hit the ball as far as Angwarawong can.

“Phon is the quiet example,” Teno says. “She hits the ball a mile. She goes out and lets her play talk for her, and her teammates really look up to her, how she plays and how she practices.”

In addition to Angwarawong, two golfers who competed for the Raiders at last year’s NJCAA National Championship tournament return: sophomores Kelsey Jensen, from Plant City, who received an All-American honorable mention; and Essence Biggs, from Beverly Hills, Mich. They are joined by sophomores Kellianne May, of Dade City; Julia McQuilken, of Riverview; and Erika Wardzinski, of Seffner.

Teno is excited about the prospect of coaching such an intelligent and experienced team, but she is equally enthusiastic about working with the two incoming freshmen, Alex LeBlanc, of Moncton, New Brunswick; and Caitlin Huiting, of Pompano Beach, who will form the backbone of next year’s team.

“They will be seeing a lot of playing time,” she says. “Alex has enormous potential and a great work ethic. She hits the ball far – power is her strength. And Caitlin is a great athlete – smart, strong, eager and willing. They are the future of this program.”

Teno expects the team to excel on the course through a combination of smart, savvy play and strength. Both styles of play, she says, are well-represented on the team, and both will be essential in capitalizing on the momentum she has created with the women’s golf program.

But beyond their talent and golf savvy, Teno is most excited about how passionate they are about playing for Seminole State.

“I’m so impressed how coachable they are, and how much they want to succeed,” she says. “I don’t know that I’ve had a team that feels so much gratitude and eagerness at their opportunity. As a coach, you can’t ask for more than that. They’re all incredibly aware how fortunate they are, and they have the right mindset to make it happen for themselves.”

The Raiders opened their season with a second-place finish at the Mercer’s Eat a Peach Tournament in Georgia Sept. 6-8, and they are back in action three more times during the Fall Term. The bulk of their schedule will take place during the Spring Term, but tournament dates have not yet been finalized.

For more information and a complete tournament schedule, please visit the Raider women’s golf home page.

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