The last time the Colorado women's golf got on a competitive stage, the Buffaloes weren't nearly as competitive as they'd like to be.
Yet, coming off a last-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships last month, the Buffs are eager for a chance at redemption this week.
Starting Thursday, the Buffs will compete in the three-day NCAA Central Regional in Stillwater, Okla. They were one of 24 teams selected for the regional, which will be held at Karsten Creek Golf Club. It is one of three regionals that will be held around the country this week.
"I think everybody is excited that we get to play again, because it's tough to end the year the way did playing the last round of the Pac-12s," CU head coach Anne Kelly said.
Just one of the five Buffs finished in the 70s (while the rest were in the 80s) during the final day of the three-round Pac-12 Championships in Corvallis, Ore., on April 27. That left the Buffs in 11th place (Utah does not field a team), 14 shots out of 10th and 29 out of ninth.
"We were all starting to play really well," sophomore Alexis Keating said of the conference meet. "Everyone was making a lot of improvement, working really hard. I think we just wanted it so bad that we were over-thinking things and literally trying too hard."
As the Buffs look forward to regionals, they're hoping to use that disappointment as fuel to a successful showing in Stillwater.
"Everyone on this team is very determined; everyone wants to play well really bad," Keating said. "Everyone knows this team has great potential to play very well together."
To this point, the Buffs have not figured out how to do that, however.
There's no question CU has talent. Senior Jenny Coleman is one of the most decorated players in program history, while her twin sister, Kristin, has been a stellar player throughout her career, as well.
Complementing the seniors is a collection of youth, led by Keating, whose 76.88 average this spring is second on the team to Jenny Coleman. Sophomore Jamie Oleksiew and freshman Natalie Vivaldi will also play this week.
"We really haven't quite all come together at a tournament," Kelly said. "We've showed signs of it, and we've had maybe three people going at the same time. Even if we could get four out of the five going, I would love to see what happens. We've been close all year; we just haven't had a breakthrough."
This would be a great time for that breakthrough. The top eight teams will advance to the NCAA championships. CU is ranked No. 59 nationally by Golfweek.com, behind 18 of the other 23 teams in the regional. Eight teams from the top 20 are in the field, led by No. 2 UCLA, No. 5 Arkansas and No. 8 Arizona.
CU is an underdog, but Kelly believes her team is capable.
"I think we could. I really do," she said.
Players can qualify for nationals as individuals, as well. Kelly said that a top-10 individual finish is likely needed to earn that spot.
To earn their way to nationals, the Buffs are going to have to beat a course that Kelly called "probably the toughest one I've seen in college golf." She said that Karsten Creek features difficult greens and that the course will punish players for missed shots.
CU is not a team that cards a lot of birdies, and Kelly is hoping that the course helps the Buffs. They are long off the tee and the key will be how they manage their games around the greens.
"I think that will work to our advantage because it won't be a big birdie-fest," Kelly said. "If we can just play good, solid, smart golf, it'll very much increase our chances of making it through."
Making it through is the goal, despite the odds being stacked against the Buffs.
"I think it's just a matter of letting ourselves basically just get out of our own way and let ourselves play our game — not letting anything rattle you," Keating said. "I think everyone is really up for the challenge."