With a berth in next week's NCAA Regionals in their back pocket, The University of Evansville women's golf team is still savoring it's first trip to the big dance. One that was truly a triumph over adversity.
"Probably because all of the stuff that they had to overcome to get there," said first year Umiversity of Evansville golf coach John Andrews. "I think that they had gone through a lot."
And that is most certainly a candidate for "understatement of the year". While every team had to deal with the cancellation of the fall golf season, the University of Evansville women received a second shock, with the abrupt stepping down of longtime head coach Jim Hamilton, leaving lone senior Sophia Rohleder to hold the team together.
"It was really rough losing Coach Hamilton," said University of Evansville senior golfer Sophia Rohleder. "Especially with COVID and losing our season, not getting practices run. Him not being able to be there."
"Sophie, basically I think, ran practices in the fall," said Andrews. "I think they did a lot themselves, in everything that they overcame. The COVID and the coaching changes and everything that they had to go through."
"We did the best that we could," said Rohleder. "We kept practicing, kept playing as much as we could, with all the COVID regulations."
Enter John Andrews. A 3-time coach of the year at IUPUI, who had led the Jaguars to seven NCAA Regional appearances, stepped into the fill the void left by Hamilton in November.
"Coach Andrews has really stepped in and done a great job," said University of Evansville freshman golfer Mallory Russell. "Kind of doing the same thing that coach Hamilton had done in the past."
"They're very similar in a lot of ways," said Rohleder. "Very different on the course. I like the way they both, obviously we're doing great . Coach Hamilton got us here and Coach Andrews got us the conference tournament."
And while Jim Hamilton no longer holds the title of head coach, after 19 years at the helm, his influence on the program and the players remains, both spiritually as well as physically.
"Coach Hamilton recruited me," said Russell, "and I'm so grateful for that because this is such a good program and a great place to go to school."
"Coach Hamilton is still here, said University of Evansville junior golfer Alyssa McMinn. "We can still reach out to him and talked to him. He isn't gone, but Coach Andrews did a good job of stepping in and made it seamless."
"It's nice that he's still around," said Russell. "He can come support. And just come to practice on occasion. It's just super cool to have both of them around because they're such great people."