Things can't get any worse for the Kansas University women's golf team. After finishing last in the Big 12 the last two seasons the time is ripe for a turnaround.
Coach Nicole Hollingsworth thinks this could be the year.
"I was dealt a very young team when I got here two years ago," she said. "But the girls just keep getting better every year and gaining more confidence."
That is not just coach-speak.
After placing outside the top 12 in each of their first four tournaments last year, the Jayhawks rebounded for five Top-10 finishes, including two in the top five.
"I would classify last season as a success," junior Tiffany Kruggel said. "We stepped up play a huge amount and did well in some tournaments."
Hollingsworth is quick to add that looking at the team's last-place finish in the Big 12 Championship is not an accurate take on the team's improvement.
"You just can't look at the Big 12," she said. "That is three days of golf. A whole season can't be summed in just that. Their games are definitely getting better. They're playing at a higher caliber and they're playing more golf now, too."
That could be an understatement. Hollingsworth requires all of her players to play in at least eight tournaments during the summer and to play almost every day.
"I'd like for them to get in at least 18 holes a day," she said.
Most of the KU golfers have summer jobs, like Kruggel.
"Playing every day and in eight tournaments is a good thing," the Topeka native said. "But it can be tough to do, especially for some of us because we have jobs. I'm lucky because I work at a golf course and practice."
Kruggel, along with Martinsville, Ind., junior Heather Rose, are the team's top returning golfers.
"Heather played in every tournament for us last year," Hollingsworth said. "She really stepped her game up. Tiffany made miraculous improvements. She started as a walk-on and was our No. 2 player for the spring last year."
Despite the return of Kruggel and Rose, the Jayhawks will not have graduated Ashely Bishop and Sara Mahoney.
Bishop had the best scoring average on the team and was named the MVP and hardest worker.
"Who will fill the shoes of Ashley and Sara is something that needs to be determined," Hollingsworth said. "Those are two starters we lost and people need to step up."
Kruggel remains optimistic.
"We have four returners that have been putting up some pretty good numbers and all have traveled and know what is expected of them," she said.
Hollingsworth has added freshmen Meredith Winkleman, Morgan Arbuckle and Lawrence Free State product Lauren Phlegar.
"We don't have any seniors, so leadership might be a little weak," Kruggel said. "Someone will have to step up."
Rose said she doesn't think it will take long to find some leaders.
"I don't think not having any seniors will affect us too much," Rose said. "We'll be fine. We'll still have leadership."