With a healthy mix of talented seniors and freshmen, the Millersville men’s golf team is ready to get their spring season started.
Head Coach Scott Vandegrift is in his 25th season with the team. He is encouraged by this team’s potential and depth.
Leading the way for the Marauders is senior Darryn DeShong. After struggling in the fall, Vandegrift fully expects DeShong to rebound and lead the team. DeShong finished in 11th place after shooting nine over par in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championships in the fall. After playing in North Carolina during spring break, he has worked his way towards getting back in the flow of the game.
Vandegrift knows that, while it does not show on the scoreboard, DeShong’s leadership is a crucial part of this team.
“We really need him to excel for this team to go,” Vandegrift said.
This will be crucial as Millersville has a plethora of freshmen. Brian Cooper was the only one of those freshmen to crack the starting lineup in the fall. He finished in 16th at 15 over par in the PSAC Championships.
However, freshmen in the starting five may not be a rarity this spring. Vandegrift wants them to focus on the present, rather than looking to what their future contributions could be. He has gone as far as to say that this group of freshmen compare to the ones he had in 2003, the year Millersville went to NCAA Nationals. Freshmen Chris Orlando, Shane Henry and Matthew Dudas will look to have similar success.
The freshmen golfers have also made strides to succeed in the classroom. According to Vandegrift, the freshmen grade point average was the highest it has ever been in the fall and it was the first time it ever exceeded the upperclassmen in his 25 years at Millersville.
“It’s a reflection of the direction of our athletic department,” Vandegrift said.
The competition from the young guys is expected to push the upperclassmen to be better, and vice versa. Junior Ben Rowe, a transfer who is from Lancaster County, has made a smooth transition to the club. Vandegrift has high expectations for Rowe, and feels he and DeShong could be a dangerous 1-2 punch. Along with juniors Nick Magenta and Brian Olinger, Vandegrift has a deep team in which many people may end up contributing by the end of the season. Whoever is hot at the time will end up making the starting lineup.
“Our best scorers can come from anywhere in the lineup,” Vandegrift said.
The goal of this team is to qualify for NCAA Regionals in West Virginia. Vandegrift also thinks they have a good chance of reaching Nationals. This would be the perfect way for the seniors to go out with a bang.
“I think that would be a great way to end my college career,” DeShong said.
But before that, the Marauders have four tournaments, including two consecutive to start the season. They begin with the Camp LeJeune Invitational, which runs from March 26-29. Vandegrift said this is the most competitive tournament the Marauders will see other than Regionals. He hopes to finish at least in the top-16 of the 30-team field.
Directly following this will be the Goldey Beacom Invitational on March 30-31. This is a tournament in which Millersville has never finished lower than second place.
In the meantime, the Marauders continue to work on all of the technical areas of their game in preparation for their spring schedule. The first competition they will face this spring is each other as they try to make the starting lineup. But the Marauders still support and encourage each other in practice to play their best golf.
Vandegrift may have some tough decisions to make regarding who plays and who does not, but, having too much talent is a problem that he would be happy to have.