GREENVILLE, N.C. -- East Carolina University's head coach golf Kevin Williams sat down with ECUpirates.com on Monday as his women's team prepares for its first-ever trip to the NCAA East Regional. The Lady Pirates will compete this Thursday through Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C. (Follow them with live scoring
ECUpirates.com: With the ECU women's program in only its third season of existence, it is a big accomplishment going to the NCAA regionals. What do you attribute this to?
Williams: We had a plan in place and watching that plan unfold successfully is the most rewarding part to it. Mike Hamrick and I sat down three and one-half years ago and said this is our plan of what we are going to try to do. We have had some bumps in the road, but each year we have gotten better and brought stronger players in and the competition has gotten better. So to watch that plan unfold has been really nice.
ECUpirates.com: What has been the biggest surprise this season?
Williams: To be honest, how poorly we played in the fall. I knew we had a good team coming in, a lot of talent, and we just didn't show much passion this fall for playing. We did win our own tournament, which wasn't a real strong field, and went to Michigan and Penn State and didn't play very well. We played pretty solid in our first tournament in Myrtle Beach, but I just thought it was a fall that we didn't get much out of. We really challenged the girls before the spring to have a little more focus and more commitment to what we are doing and see if we can't get a little more out. I told them we were lucky this fall, that we have gone out of the district and regionals and we were in a pretty good position after the fall as far as making regionals. They responded and we won the first two tournaments of the spring and they have competed well all spring.
ECUpirates.com: So do you think there was strong leadership helping to turn the attitudes around?
Williams: No question Jessica Krasny's play to start the spring is what turned things around for us. She won the tournament at Pinehurst, tied for second at the home tournament, and won at River Landing. She sort of carried us a little bit. We have had four girls all year that have been really consistent. Krasny and Adrienne Millican are our top two in stroke average. Margaret Mitchell and Heidi Helliesen have played really well also, and Jamie Quinn has stepped in and played at times for us and made a big contribution and so has Ashley Leonard, so we have kinda gotten help from everybody.
ECUpirates.com: How have you been helping the girls prepare for the regionals?
Williams: I don't know how we will play, but having it during exams has been really tough and we have had to give them some time off because of exams. We had to have them practice more on their own -- kind of challenged them and said you need to get it done and at the same time have to get your school work done, which is the first priority. We practiced last week and we are going to take the approach that when we leave tomorrow on Tuesday. School is behind us and we can focus now on nothing but golf and I think that will help us.
ECUpirates.com: With such a young team, you have a lot to build on, so what is your outlook for next season?
Williams: Right now we have three juniors out of the five starters going to regionals, plus a freshman and a sophomore. We have signed two for next year, very good players who are going to make us deeper, and we should be better because of them. Anytime you make your roster deeper and bring in better or as-good players, than you are going to be stronger I think. Chemistry-wise, I think it will work well because our girls get along so well and they really enjoyed the two recruits that came in for their visits. It is just a matter of having a focus and commitment to making sure your golf game is good. I think competition is just going to make us better.
ECUpirates.com: What do you think it will take to go on from regionals to the national championship?
Williams: The top eight out of the each regional, for a total of 24 teams, go to nationals. This means we have to be in the top eight in the regionals out of 21 teams. We will just have to play well. We have some experience to draw from and that is the approach we are taking. The Liz Murphy Intercollegiate at Georgia had nine of the top 15 teams in the country and we beat No. 24 North Carolina, beat No. 14 South Carolina, tied No. 3 Oklahoma State and lost to No. 8 Vanderbelt by just one stroke, so that is the experience we are using. We treated Georgia like a regional because we don't see teams like that very much on our schedule. We are going to go on that experience and I think the field at the East Regional is very similar to the Liz Murphy Intercollegiate. Hopefully we can go there and play as well -- maybe a little better -- so we can advance.