Powered by five underclassmen, UMHB men’s golf “has High Expectations” at Div. III National Championship

Above photo: UMHB men’s golf ASC Championship team; From left: Luis Legarreta Jr., Darian Ruiz, Ari Saldana, Kaden Treybig, Nikolas Keratsopoulos, William Sammons (Photo provided by Jordan Cox)

WHEELING, West Virginia- Take one look at the five-player lineup for UMHB men’s golf heading into the NCAA Championship and you will notice something unique.

The Cru head to Wheeling, West Virginia to compete for the Div. III national title May 11-14 with a starting five composed of four freshmen and one sophomore. Granted, Nikolas Keratsopoulos and Luis Legarreta Jr., both freshmen, competed last year, but earned an extra year of eligibility due to Covid, making the duo second-year freshmen.

Regardless, with such a young lineup, it speaks to the maturity and talent evident in head coach Jordan Cox’s program.

“I think they have grown a lot since the beginning of the year, but I think it just speaks to their talent level and work ethic,” Cox said. “They’ve continued to learn and grow throughout the year and I think that’s a big part of the recipe for success for first-year players and/or younger players. They’re willing to learn, grow and trust each other and do the things that we’ve asked them to do. And it paid off.”

There is no question about that. UMHB is headed to the Div. III NCAA Championship for the first time since 2017, as the Crusaders played some of their best golf at the ASC Championship April 26-27 and won the conference title. The Cru sealed an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship with their ASC title, defeating UT Dallas by nine strokes in Brownwood.

“It was really cool to see them very confident that last day,” Cox said of his team’s round three performance at the ASC Championship. “We’ve been close several times this year to earning a win and haven’t been able to get over the hump. They just handled themselves extremely well, handled their nerves well and got the job done.”

UMHB men’s golf captured the ASC Championship trophy (pictured above) on April 27 (Photo by Jordan Cox)

Cox said his message did not change at the ASC Tournament and will not have any variation at the national championship either.

“I kind of preach the same sermon if you will, to them over and over,” Cox said. “When we went to the conference championship, I didn’t do anything different. I didn’t say anything different. We treated it just like another tournament because I know if they do what they’re capable of doing, I believe that’s the results we will achieve.”

“Absolutely it will,” Cox said when asked if his message will remain the same in Wheeling.

Winning the ASC title and clinching a spot at nationals was a long time coming, considering UMHB, like every other team last season, had the majority of its spring slate wiped out when Covid-19 hit.

“We did feel like we had a pretty good chance to compete for the championship last year and to have that cut off and have to wait an entire year, it’s very fulfilling,” Cox said. “We’re very humbled to be able to represent the American Southwest Conference. There are many good teams and many good programs in our league.”

In a somewhat surprising move by the NCAA selection committee, No. 12 McMurry and No. 17 UT Dallas were not selected as at-large bids, meaning UMHB will be the lone ASC team representative in Wheeling. McMurry’s Layne Roye was selected to compete as an individual, but an east coast bias certainly appears to be evident.

Regardless, the Crusaders will have the eyes of the west region upon them, some 1,299 miles from Belton, and, from the looks of it, are very much in the national title conversation. Four of UMHB’s five were named All-ASC honorees, in Kaden Treybig, Legaretta Jr., William Sammons and Ari Saldana. The only player left off the list was Keratsopoulos, who will play a fairly significant role in the Cru’s performance this week. Sammons was selected as Freshman of the Year and Treybig earned the conference’s Sportsmanship Athlete of the Year. Saldana is coming off winning the ASC individual title, as he earned a one-stroke victory at the conference championship.

“They’ve fed off the energy of each other and that has compelled them to compete with their teammates,” Cox said. “They know that doing that spurs them on to even greater successes.”

UMHB men’s golf awaits the final results at a recent tournament (photo provided by Jordan Cox)

The Cru certainly hope that they can find success at the national championship, and are on the path to do so. Regardless of the results, Cox noted several times how thankful he and his squad is to even be in this position.

“The fact that we’re getting to go and compete, how exciting is that?,” Cox said. “They’re really enthused about everything and they’ve been working hard even through final exams and everything. You come off the conference championship, you’re dog tired, go right into final exams and oh, by the way, we’re supposed to be preparing to go play in the national championship. So it has been a hectic last couple weeks, but they’re excited for the opportunity. I think they have high expectations for themselves.”

The Cru will tee off Tuesday morning at Speidel Jones Golf Course and the tournament will run through May 14. Live stats can be found at Golfstat.com.

UMHB women’s golfer set to compete at Div. III National Championship

LANSING, Michigan- UMHB women’s golf did not earn an automatic bid into the NCAA National Championship, but will still have a representative in freshman Sydney McConnell. The ASC’s Golfer of the Year and Freshman of the Year, McConnell won the conference’s individual title with a one-stroke win at the ASC Championship on April 20. She will be one of six players in the 131-player field that will be competing as an individual. The Tyler, Texas native is the third Crusader to compete as an individual at the National Championship.

Sydney McConnell will compete as an individual at the NCAA National Championship (Photo provided by the UMHB Athletics Department)

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