Not only did Minnesota have to compete with some of the nation's top programs, they also had to compete with the weather.
Heavy rain interrupted the first round of the Annika Intercollegiate, held in Lake Elmo, Minnesota on Monday. Luckily, conditions were good enough to finish round one the following day, but unfortunately things didn't improve for the Gophers on the leaderboard. Still, head coach Michele Redman saw cause for optimism in her group's performance.
"These are 11 of the best teams in the country," Redman said. "Obviously we have some work to do but I'm encouraged, we're starting to play a lot better."
Considered one of the toughest fields in womens' golf, the tournament featured eight schools currently ranked in the top 10. In fact, every team is currently ranked in the top 20 nationally except one — Minnesota, who hosted the tournament.
"I took a lot out of today and I think our whole [team] took a lot out of the tournament," said sophomore Grace Kellar. "Now we're just going to put some more work in."
The Gophers line-up featured four sophomores: Kellar, Joanne Free, Jessica Lee and Kate Lillie. Muyu Wu was the lone senior who competed for Minnesota and came in tied for 47th (+7).
As a team, the Gophers shot a total of 894, a 14-stroke improvement from their last tournament. Kellar, fresh off a third-place overall finish in the Minnesota Invitational, once again led the way for Minnesota, finishing in a tie for 40th (+5).
"We haven't had a lot of time to practice," Redman said. "We've had three practices this semester so far, so to see some improvements with only three practices is good.
Heading into the final round, Duke held the lead at 19-under-par. However, on the last day, the Blue Devils shot five-over as a team, allowing four other schools to pass them in the rankings. Ultimately, the nation's top ranked team, Alabama, finished on top, thanks to a third-round 277 (-11).
On the individual leaderboard, UCLA's Patty Tavatanakit saved the tournament's best round for last. She shot a nine-under on Wednesday, propelling her eight spots to win the tournament with a 13-under overall, one stroke ahead of USC's Malia Nam.
After playing two tournaments in 10 days to begin the season, the Gophers will get a quick break before heading off to Colorado where they will compete in the Ron Moore Women's Intercollegiate on Oct. 5.
"We're just going to keep getting better, I know that," Redman said.