NORTH ANDOVER — The Merrimack women’s golf team heads to the Northeast-10 Championship tournament this weekend hoping that, in fact, the third time is the charm.
That’s not to say the first two weren’t alright, themselves.
The Warriors are looking to three-peat as NE-10 champions after winning consecutive titles the last two seasons. This year’s championship will take place at Bretwood in Keene, N.H., and the first round gets underway on Sunday with the tournament concluding Monday.
“We’re excited,” said junior co-captain Alessandra Ricigliano, who not only has two NE-10 team championships on her resume, but she was also the individual champion at last fall’s NE-10 Championship.
“We really want to win the tournament for a third time,” she continued. “We just need to go out there and do our best.”
The Warriors played at Bretwood earlier this season, finishing fourth in the Northeast-10 Fall Preview. Not the type of result this team has grown accustomed to accepting, Ricigliano said the Warriors are hoping to improve on those scores and also now have a better understanding of the course.
In order to see the course in current conditions, Merrimack will also be able to get a practice round at Bretwood on Saturday.
“It’s a tough course,” she said. “Most of our team can hit the ball pretty far, so for us, I think we need to be really smart in selecting short clubs. I remember there being a lot of water and other trouble spots (at Bretwood).
“One of the things we focus on as a team is being smart. Sometimes you don’t need to hit a driver if you can take a hybrid and have better control with it. We need to play smart (this weekend).”
Ricigliano is one of two Merrimack golfers to have rounds in the 70s this fall. Her 80.0 stroke average is second-best on the team behind Krystal Knight, who advanced to the NCAA Super Regional last season as an individual golfer. Ricigliano said one Merrimack’s biggest goals this season is to make it to the Super Regional as a team, and become the first team in program history to do so.
“That would be huge for us,” she said. “We’ve never been able to do that as a team and last year, we were so close.”
Merrimack was the first team under the cut last spring.
“We’ve been close a few times now,” Ricigliano said. “Hopefully this is the year we’re able to push through and get there. … We’ve really progressed as a team and our average scores keep coming down. My freshman year we weren’t really close for a Super Regional spot, and then last year we were just a spot away.”
Knight is averaging 78.5 this fall, leading the team. Jessica Wagner is third on the team with an average of 81.3 and Samantha Monaco is averaging 86.5 with Olivia Dempster posting an average of 87.0.
Earlier this week, Knight was named the NE-10 Golfer of the Week after a tournament in Indianapolis where she fired a career-low round of 72. Knight also won the NE-10 Rookie of the Year.
Despite this weekend’s championship, the fall won’t be over the Warriors after Monday. On Oct. 10, the Warriors will travel south to West Palm Beach, Florida for the Golfrank Invitational. One week later they’ll be in White Plains, N.Y. for the Big Apple Invitational and the week after that, they’ll be in Tennessee for the Trevacca Fall Invitational.
“It can be tough but we focus a lot on finding balance with our schedule,” Ricigliano said. “We play more tournaments in the fall, and a lot of them fall on Mondays and I think we even have some Tuesdays coming up, so you have to find good balance with your schedule.
“The next four weekends for us are all going to be tough, but they’re good challenges. Right now, for this week, the focus is on winning an NE-10 title.”