Coming off of back-to-back Conference USA Championships and NCAA Regional appearances, Middle Tennessee opens the season Sept. 12-13 at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship hosted by Tennessee at Cherokee Country Club.
The Raiders then return to the Mason Rudolph Invitational at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin on Sept. 16-18, where they battled to a tie for 12th place alongside a pair of top programs in South Carolina and Baylor.
“This is probably the best schedule that we’ve ever put together since I’ve been here,” Adams said. “We’re starting the year out at Tennessee and Vanderbilt in two very prestigious tournaments that over the years have been loaded with some great teams.”
Three more tournaments that are new to the schedule this season round out the fall as MT will head to the Lady Paladin Invitational (Sept. 23-25) hosted by Furman in Greenville, S.C., the Greenville Regional Preview (Oct. 17-18) hosted by East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. and the Cardinal Cup (Oct. 23-25) hosted by Louisville in Simpsonville, Ky.
“This is my first time going to Furman with this team, but it’s a really good golf course and they are going to 18-18-18 for the first time so that will be nice,” Adams stated. “The Regional Preview will be an interesting opportunity because they will be hosting an NCAA Regional in the spring of 2017 and we haven’t been on that golf course before.
“We’re going back to Louisville for the first time in a couple of years and that will be a really strong field. Having maybe the strongest fall schedule we’ve ever faced will give us a really good chance to get our ranking where we would like it to be if we play well.”
The Raiders begin the spring early this season, making their first trip to the Florida State Match-Up in Tallahassee, Fla., on Feb. 10-12.
Next up for MT is the Hurricane Invitational (Feb. 27-March 1) hosted by Miami at Biltmore Golf Course in Coral Gables, Fla., which is followed by a return trip to the MountainView Collegiate (Mar. 10-12) in Tucson, Ariz., where the Blue Raiders finished 13th in the spring of 2016.
“This is the first time we’ve ever been invited to the Florida State match play event and it will be a really fun event and it’s followed by a return trip to Miami after we sat that one out for a year and got re-invited,” Adams said.
“The MountainView is another great event on a great golf course and it has turned into a three-day tournament which we are excited about.”
The regular season concludes with an April 10-11 trip to the Brickyard Collegiate in Macon, Ga., a brand new tournament hosted by Mercer at Brickyard Golf Club.
“Some really good teams will be at this brand new tournament hosted by Mercer and I’m really looking forward to it,” Adams stated. “They’ve done a really good job getting some good sponsors and it’s on a really great golf course.”
The 2017 Conference USA Championship is scheduled for April 17-19 and will return to the Verandah Club in Fort Myers, Fla., where Middle Tennessee will look to once again defend its conference title and extend its season with a third straight NCAA Regional appearance.
“We’re very fortunate to be having the conference tournament on the same course it has been on for the last two years because we love the golf course and have had some really good success there the last couple of years,” Adams said.
“We’ve got a lot of three-day events this year and the players love that. It gives you a chance to rest and practice a little bit more after the first round. To have six events this year that are 18-18-18 is really great for us.”
Despite losing its top two scoring averages from last season in Avery George (73.7) and Emily Miller (74.2), Middle Tennessee enters the upcoming season with three All-Conference USA selections returning to the program with senior Samantha Gotcher as well as sophomores Jenna Burris and Hanley Long all back.
“It’s a luxury to have three of our starting five from last season coming back,” Adams expressed. “Those three contributed a lot in our conference championship this past spring and are quality players.
“Jenna [Burris] and Hanley [Long] had a great spring to finish off their freshmen seasons and we certainly got a lot out of them so the expectations are pretty high. Having Samantha [Gotcher] coming back is also great. She’s been a solid part of the lineup in her three years and is a true leader so we’re looking for great things from her.”
Senior Lacie York also looks to figure into the mix, currently enjoying a competitive summer that included a semi-final run at the Tennessee Women’s Amateur in June.
“Lacie York is coming back in as a senior and I expect her to get a lot more playing time this season coming off a summer of good play,” Adams stated. “I expect her to come into the fall ready to go and knowing that she has a chance to be in the lineup and play.”
The quartet of returners is joined by newcomers Cynthia Bounleutay, Katherine Holmes and Emily Lankford, who will compete to fill out the travel roster.
“There is always a little bit of unknown with two new freshmen coming in as well as one junior college transfer in Cynthia [Bounleutay], but I think they’ll battle it out to decide who will contend for a spot in the travel lineup. It should be a good, healthy competition and I think they can all make an impact on this team.”