PALATINE HILL -- With one tournament in the books for 2018, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers have a fast-paced schedule for the rest of the season culminating with the Northwest Conference Championship tournament on Apr. 21-22.
The Pioneers are entering the first spring season under new head coach James Yen, who will have returning assistant Aaron Benedetti on staff along with two recent graduates, Drew Groshong and Arielle Valdez.
"I'm excited for the spring and know we will have someone competing near the top week in and week out," said Yen. "I'm expecting good things and continued improvement."
The Pioneers spent much of the season ranked in the Golfstat NCAA Division III Relative Rankings top 25 last year and return much of the roster that got them there.
The five-person junior class provides the bulk of the roster. Jane Almeida did not compete in the fall and returned to win all of her matches at last weekend's Capitol City Match Play. As a sophomore, Almeida placed in the top 10 at three of the six tournaments in which she competed including a fourth-place result at the UCSC Spring Invite in April.
Tori Eichten left the court as a member of the Lewis & Clark women's basketball team on Feb. 23 and rejoined the golf team the next day. In the fall, Eichten's high-water mark came in October with a 19th-place finish at the NWC Fall Classic, the first tournament of the three-event series that determines the conference champion. Eichten is one of the best ball strikers in the NWC.
After taking her sophomore season off, Elizabeth Moretti returned last fall to compete in all three tournaments. Moretti is a key bonding force for the team and two of her three matches at the opening tournament of the spring to boost the Pios into the championship match.
Mady Rhodenbaugh returns to the roster for the first time since the fall season of 2016. As a freshman, Rhodenbaugh was named NWC Student-Athlete of the Week three times before finishing third at the NWC Fall Classic as a sophomore. She is expected to contend throughout the spring.
In her second season with the Pioneers, Annika Clunk won all three of her Saturday matches for the Pioneers last weekend before coming up just short with a 2 and 1 loss in the championship match. Clunk finished sixth at the Willamette Spring Thaw last year for her best-ever place.
The Pios will be without Annie McCutchan this semester as she is participating in Lewis & Clark's Overseas Study program. An All-NWC selection last year, McCutchan placed 10th at the NWC Fall Classic after winning two tournaments and earning a second-place finish in a third during her sophomore season.
A bonafide leader, Jacob Bell returns for his third spring with the Pioneers. A 13th-place finisher at this year's NWC Fall Classic, Bell had led the tournament after the opening day. As a sophomore, he had four straight top-16 finishes.
Kade McCoy is the only Pioneers golfer to win a match-play round at the Capitol City Match Play last weekend. A three-year member of the team, McCoy placed 23rd at last spring's Willamette Valley Cup and hit a season-best 84 at the George Fox Invitational last fall.
Selected to the All-NWC First Team after last year's NWC Championship, Robert Wang finished 17th at the George Fox Invitational last fall for his best result of the season. Wang provides a good amount of consistency for the Pioneers.
David Furman is in his first season competing for the golf team and has continued his improvement into the spring. His best fall round was an 82 to open the NWC Fall Classic, the final event of the fall.
First-year golfer Spencer Long is a long-ball hitter who is from the Portland area. Like Furman, expectations are up for the spring after finishing with a career-best 79 to open up the NWC Fall Classic.
Following last weekend's Capitol City Match Play, the Pioneers travel to eastern Washington for the Sunshine Invitational on Saturday and Sunday. A trip to Corvallis, Ore. follows for the Willamette Cup on Mar. 17-18 before a possible Multnomah Match Play tournament on Mar. 24-25.
April sees the final two postseason events with one tournament in between. First, the NWC Spring Classic will be held in Spokane, Wash. on Apr. 7-8 before the Pios compete in the Spring Thaw at the Pronghorn Resort in Bend, Ore. Apr. 14-15. The NWC Championship is Apr. 21-22 in Lakewood, Wash.