The Merrimack College women’s golf team continued to set the standard not only in the Northeast-10 Conference in 2016-17, but at the regional level. In its fifth season as a varsity program, the Warriors met nearly very goal outlined at the beginning of the season and only graduated one student-athlete from last year’s roster, meaning the 2017-18 version of the team should be set up to continue that success.
The main goal for the fall season was, of course, defending the team’s NE10 Championship, which the Warriors had claimed in each of the previous two seasons – the only two seasons in which the conference had sponsored the sport. And while Merrimack had won each of the previous two titles convincingly, there was still doubt in the minds of the league’s coaches; prior to the tournament, Merrimack was picked second in the NE10 Coaches’ Poll, perhaps providing a bit more motivation. Regardless of that fact, the team still won the 2016 NE10 Championship going away, clearing pre-tournament favorite Franklin Pierce by more than 30 strokes while Alessandra Ricigliano won the individual title and two of her classmates earned all-conference first team honors.
After posting four top-10 team finishes in the fall season, Merrimack ramped up its strength of schedule in the spring semester by playing not only the top teams in the East Super Region but in the country. And while the team fell just short of qualifying for the NCAA Super Regionals by a slim margin, both Ricigliano and Krystal Knight each qualified as individuals for the event, marking the third time in program history that the team had postseason qualifiers in an NCAA event, as well as the first time that it had qualified multiple golfers.
After taking over the reigns midway through last season following the departure Nick Crovetti, who departed to start the women’s golf program at Stonehill College, Jason Malcolm begins his second season and first full academic year guiding the program. Malcolm was instrumental in helping both Krystal Knight and Alessandra Ricigliano earn NCAA Super Regional qualifications last spring. Now, Malcolm will look to push the Warriors to secure their fourth straight conference title and their first-ever team qualification in the NCAA Championships.
A 15-year veteran offering professional instruction at various golf facilities over that span, Malcolm arrives in North Andover after serving as assistant coach at nearby NE10 institution Southern New Hampshire University over the past two years. His responsibilities Involved in all aspects of coaching one of the top-ranked Division II men's programs in the country while helping establish the foundation for the women's team that was launched in 2014-15. He recruited student-athletes for both teams while helping to lead the men's program to a second-place finish at the NCAA East/Atlantic Super Regional en route to a qualification in the NCAA National Championships in 2015-16.
Malcolm also recently accepted a position as a PGA Professional at Nashua Country Club, as well, after a successful nearly three-year stint at Dublin Lake Club. He supervised a six-member golf staff managing tournaments and organizing junior clinics, private lessons and more. Additionally, Malcolm has worked as a PGA professional at four other clubs/institutions over the past decade, including Winchester Country Club (2011-13); Old Marsh Golf Club (2002-07); Whitinsville Golf Club (2003-07) and Franklin Country Club (2002).
MEET THE 2016-17 WARRIORS
Alessandra Ricigliano headlines the group of returnees. The senior will look to finish her career with a third straight NE10 Individual Championship and a second consecutive NCAA Super Regional appearance. Ricigliano posted 11 rounds with scores in the 70s last season, averaging 79.4 strokes per round – the lowest average on the team. Her best performance of her career came when she fired a 72 on Day 2 of the NE10 Championship to help the Warriors claim the league title once again.
Graduate student Samantha Monaco will return to the lineup for a fifth year; she enjoyed her best year yet in 2016-17, steadily improving as the season progressed. Her best career score of 83 was set twice last season, as she averaged a shade under 89 strokes on the season and recorded 12 of her 17 rounds with scores in the 80s.
Senior Jessica Wagner was as consistent as any other player last season, ranking third with an average score of 81.1 on the season. She posted three scores in the 70s during the fall season and was a fourth-place finisher and all-conference honoree at the NE10 Championship. Then, in the spring, she tied for second at the Saint Rose Classic with a career-low-tying score of 74.
Senior Kristen Gamble played in nine rounds last year and will look to add more depth this fall and spring. Her best score score was a 99 that she set at the Otter Invitational in March.
Statistically one of the top golfers on the team in each of her first two seasons on campus, junior Krystal Knight will look to keep improving entering her third season with the program. The only student-athlete in program history to qualify for multiple NCAA Championships, Knight tied Ricigliano for most rounds carded in the 70s range last season (11) and was an all-conference first team pick. Knight set her lowest career score with a 72 at the UIndy Invitational last fall and, overall, averaged 79.7 strokes per round.
In her first full season, junior Olivia Dempster played some of her best golf in the second semester, carding six scores in the 80s, including a stretch of three straight rounds in the low-80s. She started the year with a bang, setting a career-low with an 82 in the first dual match of the season against Southern New Hampshire.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Merrimack is scheduled to compete in six tournaments in six different states over the first two months of the academic year. Starting with a short trip up to Hanover, New Hampshire, to partake in the Lady Penmen Labor Day Classic, the Warriors will then head westward on consecutive weekends to compete in a pair of tournaments with regional opponents, including the Gannon University Michael Corbett Classic (Sept. 10-11), and the Le Moyne Fall Invitational (Sept. 17-18).
Merrimack, for the first time in school history, will play host to the 2017 NE10 Women's Golf Championship Sept. 24-25, where the Warriors will be gunning for their fourth straight league title. Merrimack rounds out the year at the GolfRank Invitational hosted by Nova Southeastern in Florida (Oct. 9-10) and the Trevecca Music City Invitational in Tennessee (Oct. 25-26).