A total of 45 golfers took part in the University of Nebraska at Omaha women golf team’s first outing of the season Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, hosting the UNO Invitational at ArborLinks in Nebraska City, which was the team’s first home tournament since 2011. The Mavericks finished seventh with a score of 971. South Dakota State won with a score of 891.
“The first tournament is kind of to see where we’re at and where we need to go, so expectations are never really known,” assistant men and women’s coach Easton Key said.
Key joined the team in July after a successful college career at Arkansas State, where he also served as a graduate assistant coach before coming to Omaha.
Hastings native junior Megan Vertrovsky led Omaha with a 239 good for 16th. In just her first college tournament, freshman Samantha Chong finished second on the team and 35th overall with a score of 244.
Sophomore Jordan York finished 36th overall with a score of 248. Fourth and fifth on the team went to freshman Sami Langford and sophomore Mandy Boyle in a tie for 38th overall with a score of 250.
“I was proud of them to never give up and keep going after a long day,” Key said. “We had some freshmen in their first collegiate experience and I think they did a good job in it.”
The two best rounds posted by Mavericks were Vertrovsky’s 77 and York’s 79, each on their final round. Walton, Nebraska native freshman Haley Wineman and sophomore Morgan Miller from Bemidji, Minnesota each played as individuals in the tournament with Wineman ending with a score of 250 and Miller with a 258.
“Megan Vertrovsky is kind of the unofficial leader on the team and has the most past experience, she just carries herself like a leader and is one to look at,” Key said.
The team faced Missouri State on Friday and Saturday in the Payne Stewart Memorial to kick the week off at Oaks Country Club in Springfield, Missouri. The squad of five played a total of 54 holes over the course of two-days, 36 on a busy Monday and a final 18 they finished Saturday. The official results were not yet posted at the time of publication.
Key and head coach Seth Porter pull double-duty and coach both the women and the men’s teams. “The hardest thing is being in two places at once,” Key said. “Trying to get around and be there for both teams it gets difficult.”
The men’s team finished in seventh place with a score of 901 at Arbor-Links, as hosts of the men’s side of the tournament. Ontario native, sophomore Kevin Gordon led the Mavs who finished at par and tied for second overall with a score of 216 over 54 holes. Fellow sophomore Ben Maskus from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, was second on the team and seventh overall with a final score of 220. Omaha native and senior Mitch Ryan tied for 26th overall with a score of 230. Another Kansas native, freshman Kelly Brown had a 242 which put him in 40th. Freshmen Max Hellstrom from Stockholm, Sweden, finished with 244 to round things out for the men.
Maskus and Ryan are two seniors to watch on the men’s team this year. “They are kind of the anchor of the team and have great leadership,” Key said. “They push the guys to get better each day.”
The best rounds of the tournament for the Mavericks were a pair of 69’s, three under par by Gordon. Maskus ended his tournament by parring his final round with a 72.
Sophomore Sam Musch shot a 76 for the team’s third best score on his third round of the tournament and finished with a 242.
“We finished second in the Summit last year and we bring back all five guys so our goal is to win the Summit League this year and I feel that is really possible,” Key said.
The men’s team will be back in action starting Sept. 12 in the John Dallio Memorial hosted by DePaul University at the Prairie Landing Golf Club in West Chicago.
Coach Key stressed that a hard work ethic is the ‘key’ to both team’s successes now and in the future.
“If we can lay the ground work and have people that want to work hard come in like we have then I’m sure the accolades and awards will follow,” Key said.
2011. She also had 14 digs for her first double-double effort of the season, and scored eight of Omaha’s 15 points in the deciding set. Freshmen Ashley Smith and Olivia Spanton roamed the back row, still adjusting to the Division I pace, but acquiring a total of 36 digs between them. Meagen Roth also had a game to remember putting up a career-best 15 kills and 19 digs for her first ever collegiate double-double.
Later that night, Kayla Torson and Roth had double-double performances to lead Omaha in another 3-2 win over Abilene Christian. O’Shaughnessy had 54 assists, two shy of what she had in the afternoon, which was 56 against Ball State. An unfortunate note for Maverick fans, Mackenzie Horkey left the game with a knee injury, and sat out of the team’s games Saturday. Shires described Horkey’s injury on Friday as “serious and likely season-ending,” which is surely not good news for Maverick fans.
Omaha squared off with Drake on Saturday, trying to avenge a loss last season where the Mavs dropped the contest against the Bulldogs in five sets. Half of the Dogs’ starting lineup hailed from the Omaha metro area, making it an interesting homecoming for the away team.
Shires sent out a younger starting lineup, sitting the likes of returning starters O’Shaughnessy and Horkey, who was in uniform, but never took off her long-sleeved warm-up.
The Mavs tried battling back in the first set reeling off four straight points late to get within four, but ultimately lost 25-20. The second set, Omaha scored five straight points to make the game 20-16, but the Bulldogs stormed back tying the game then taking the lead. The Mavs would eventually pull it out after O’Shaughnessy, who didn’t sit long, served the final two possessions helping the Mavs even the match 1-1.
Drake started the third set out on a 10-0 run, nearly extinguishing any Maverick momentum from their second set win. The Bulldogs cruised to take the set and the match lead, 2-1. The fourth set, and match went to the Bulldogs.
The Mavs dropped their final matchup of the tournament to UMKC in three straight sets. Tough breaks have been the story of the program dating back to last season from bad breaks on the court, to injuries in practice in the offseason, but Shires is still leading a positive locker room.
“I’ve got setters hitting right side, I’ve got defensive players in the front row, we’ve got people having to do things that is not their forte, but it will increase our volleyball IQ and it’ll increase our competitive level,” Shires said.
The team is already at a disadvantage due to its inexperience and younger players thrust into starting roles, but injuries, especially to now two former starters will hurt the Mavs moving forward this season, but may ben-efit them in the future seasons to come.
“We have to really as a team, as a program, see this season in a whole different way, and I think we have to reevaluate what our vision is and what our mission will be,” Shires said. “We’re creating a culture, and that culture is how we fight and compete, and put our best on the floor no matter what the odds.”