Eight months ago head coach Missy Farr Kaye knew she was bringing in a team with an extraordinary amount of talent.
Last season, the Sun Devils hadn’t made it to the NCAA Championships. Farr Kaye saw that at as a disappointment for the amount of talent on that team.
In the first practice of the season, Kaye mentioned that after recruiting.
“Looking back to 2009, this might be the most talent this program has brought in,” Kaye said. “We can be No. 1 in the country, and I have no hesitation saying that. My eyes are on Illinois in a couple months for a National Championship, and I see no reason why we can’t get there.”
Jump forward eight months and Kaye’s vision for this team is a reality. The Sun Devils are the No. 1 team in the country and are competing in Sugar Grove, Ill. this weekend in the NCAA Championships on Friday, May 19 after dominating their Lubbock, Tex. regional by 21 shots.
ASU finished 22-under, easily winning its first regional since 2009 and its sixth in program history.
The Sun Devils have been climbing the rankings throughout the season starting the year at No. 14, but Kaye and many of her players have said their ranking, individual or team, isn’t what they are focused on. It’s winning tournaments.
“We’re ranked pretty high right now, but we always try to just remain focused on the task at hand and right now that’s the National Championship,” said sophomore Linnea Strom, the eighth ranked individual in the country said. “We try to stay away from that kind of stuff as much as possible, it’s just a distraction.”
This team’s flight up the rankings is due to its most tournament victories since 2009, their most top five finishes since 2009, and their most individual wins since 2009.
Also in 2009 they were the No. 1 team in the country and went on to win the national championship under Kaye. She says this year’s team and her team from almost a decade ago were less similar then people would think.
“Yes, we’re in a similar position right now but I don’t see that many similarities with these two teams looking back on it,” Kaye said. “This year’s team is more underclassmen based. After the 2009 season it was hard to get back to being real competitive again because everyone graduated. I don’t see that happening next year.”
For the seniors on this team, this will be Arizona State’s first trip to the National Championship since its freshman year and senior Monica Vaughn says she’s glad she’s with this team again.
“I’m thrilled it’s with these girls,” Vaughn said. “If I’m only going to go one more time in my career I wouldn’t want to go with any other group of people than this. I’m so happy and can’t believe we have this opportunity.”