IU travels to Michigan State without top golfer

The IU women’s golf team will open its second tournament of the year at Michigan State on Saturday. The tournament will be played in East Lansing, Michigan, at the Forest Akers West Golf Course, and the 12-team field will begin play Saturday and end Sunday.

After IU finished in seventh place in its first tournament at Colorado State, senior Ana Sanjuan said she was disappointed the team didn’t finish higher.

Now IU is heading to Michigan State without sophomore Erin Harper due to illness. Harper is the Hoosiers’ top returning player from last season.

Sanjuan said the team faces more pressure without Harper, but it is accustomed to it after playing its way into the postseason last year.

“I think this is just another situation where you have to play well under pressure because one of your top players isn’t there,” Sanjuan said. “So we just have to be there and be like, ‘We have to do this.’ I think we will be fine. We practiced really hard for this event, and I feel we are prepared.”

IU Coach Clint Wallman said Harper being out of the lineup will create challenges for the team, but it will also open up opportunities for the other players to step up.

Sanjuan was IU’s best performer at Colorado State, where she finished tied for seventh in the individual standings. She said that tournament gave her confidence going into Michigan State.

“To start the season with a top-10 is always good because you are on a good track,” Sanjuan said. “I feel really prepared. I’m playing solid, and I’m ready to go.”

After the team struggled to convert on putting opportunities inside five feet at Colorado State, Wallman said short putting was a major focus for the team in practice. Wallman also said the team will focus on avoiding complacency during tournaments.

“We want to be playing with urgency, trying to hit the best shots we can and trying to get the ball in the hole as fast as possible so we get some good momentum right out of the gate,” Wallman said. “That’s a big focus for us just playing urgent — not reckless, but with a sense of purpose.”

Wallman said IU will have a slight advantage this weekend due to his familiarity with Michigan State’s course from previous tournaments.

“I know how the golf course plays. I know the spots that tend to be struggle holes for people, so that gives us a bit of a leg up on most teams that haven’t played that tournament,” Wallman said.

Michigan State and IU are the only Big Ten teams in the 12-team field. Sanjuan said she looks forward to playing against other Big Ten teams because it shows the team who they will be competing against at the Big Ten Tournament in April.

Despite the loss of Harper and the putting struggles of the past, Wallman said he has full confidence in the team going to Michigan State.

“They know what they need to do, and they have worked very hard,” he said. “It’s kind of chapter two in our little odyssey as we move through the year towards the Big Tens.”

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