Clan Sets Sights On GNAC Championships In Idaho

2016 GNAC Player Of The Year Chris Crisologo Leads The SFU Clan Men's Squad Into Idaho For This Year's GNAC Championships Next Week at Coueur d'Alene - Image Credit Bryan Outram/British Columbia Golf

courtesy Steve Frost (SFU Athletics)

BURNABY, BC – The Simon Fraser University golf teams have their sights set on the 2017 GNAC Championships, which takes place in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho on April 24 and 25. The Clan women enter the tournament as the defending champions while the men's team looks to capture its second conference title after finishing first in 2015.

With the game planning and other preparations well underway this week, interim head coach Matthew Steinbach is confident his teams will be ready for this crucial tournament.

"It has been an up and down season – we've seen some brilliance and some great play from both the men and the women but we've also had some times where we haven't seen our results," said Steinbach. "We know for both squads that winning the conference tournament is the only chance for us to get to the NCAA Regionals, so with that in mind, our focus is on posting some good numbers next week so we can take home some hardware."

The 2016 GNAC Championships was a Cinderella story for the women's team. The quintet shot a combined two-round score of 617, eight strokes better than the pre-tournament favourite from Western Washington, en route to a historic victory. The team proved that they are a force to be reckoned with when they started this season with back-to-back wins at the Saint Martin's and Western Washington tournaments in October.

Four of the five golfers on that winning team will be making the trip to Idaho. Emily Leung, Kylie Jack, Belinda Lin, and Michelle Waters will represent SFU again while freshman Jaya Rampuri will round out the group.

Leung, who is in her sophomore year, has been the Clan's top golfer all season. The 2016 GNAC Freshman of the Year has three top-10 finishes this season in six tournaments and is averaging 77.83 strokes per round. Coquitlam's Rampuri has made an immediate impact on the program as a freshman. In the 12 rounds of golf she has competed in, she averages 78.33 shots per round and earned eighth-place finishes in her last two tournaments.

Waters surprised the field last year with two impressive rounds to capture the individual title and she aims to repeat that performance next week. "She has all the physical tools to defend her title," Steinbach explained. "If she can strategically and mentally make it through the two rounds, she'll be right there at the end."

On the men's side, Chris Crisologo, Kevin Vigna, Marcus Brown, Craig Titterington and Sy Lovan will be representing Simon Fraser at the tournament. Four of the five golfers have competed on the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course in the past, and both Crisologo and Vigna were on the team that captured the GNAC title in dominant fashion two years ago. "The team that won GNACs in 2015 played really well and they posted a score that was double digits under par," said Steinbach. "We know going in that on this course in these conditions, we're going to need to post some red numbers to win."

The Clan team is led by Crisologo, who was named GNAC Player of the Year in 2016 and became SFU's first-ever All-American in golf. He continued his dominance this season, winning the Western Washington, Otter and Northwest Nazarene tournaments. He enters the competition as the eighth-ranked golfer in Division II and is averaging 71.50 strokes per round. Last year in Idaho, he finished tied for third overall with rounds of 67, 71 and 70 (208) and he will be looking to earn his first individual conference tournament win.

Crisologo's teammates are going to rely on him to lead the charge but it is important for the other four players to pull their own weight to give the team a chance at the title. "Chris is perhaps the best player to ever play for SFU and his game is at an advanced stage," Steinbach said. "But as a team, we're hoping to build off the momentum that we have from the final day of the Northwest Nazarene Invitational where we had four scores all under par. If we can have each guy contributing and shooting under par, we'll have success."

The Simon Fraser women's team is currently ranked 12th in the West Region while the men is 48th nationally and just out of the top 10 in the region. Although a victory at the GNAC Championships will not give either team an automatic berth to the NCAA tournaments, it will put them in a good position to be chosen by the selection committee to move on. Clan golfers will also have the chance to qualify individually to the regional tournaments if the teams are not selected to participate.

Be sure to follow SFU Clan on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as team's Instagram accounts (@SFUMGolf / @SFUWGolf) for the latest updates, behind-the-scenes content and more throughout the GNAC Championships.