New leaders push UTC women's golf back to NCAA Regionals - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

New leaders push UTC women's golf back to NCAA Regionals

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Chattanooga head coach Colette Murray watches her team practice last week. The Mocs will open play at the NCAA East Regional in State College, Pa., on Thursday. Chattanooga head coach Colette Murray watches her team practice last week. The Mocs will open play at the NCAA East Regional in State College, Pa., on Thursday.

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Colette Murray remembers the moment she changed.

Once shy and reserved and lacking self-confidence, an everyday round of golf with her father convinced the University of Tennessee women's golf coach to become the strong, motivational leader she is today.

"He was just huffing and puffing away and we got seventh hole and I asked, 'Why do play golf, Dad?' because he really didn't like it at all. I mean, he hated it," Murray recalled. "I literally, that day, promised myself I would no longer be negative and I would believe in myself and my game."

Murray said she went from being a "pretty good" player to the "leader she always wished she had" in her final collegiate season in which she led Jacksonville State to nine tournament wins.

Her transformation then mirrors the one made by her UTC golf team now.

"I think it's taken us awhile to get here," Murray said. "We've struck a balance with new leaders and a different type of leadership than we've had in the past."

After graduating the five-year-old program's two cornerstone players and leaders, Emma de Groot and Christine Wolf, the Mocs struggled to develop new go-to players in the fall.

But come the spring senior Maria Juliana Loza and sophomore Jordan Britt were able to find their footing and their voice as the leaders of a youthful group.

"I think MaJu put a little too much pressure on herself to carry us in the fall, and it showed in her play," Murray said. "She'd never been on a team without Emma and Christine, and I think she felt she needed to take on both of those roles herself.

"But we have found a good balance with her and Jordan."

Murray called Loza the team's "verbal" leader and described Britt as more of the "mom" of the team.

Britt sheepishly agreed.

"MaJu embraces that role. She's much better with the speaking," said Britt, a former GPS and Signal Mountain standout. "I'm more of the 'believe in yourself,' confidence-boosting type of person."

The duo played those roles beautifully at the Southern Conference Championship last month, helping the Mocs rally from an early deficit to win their third straight league title.

"We all got together after that first round, and i told them, 'The tougher the road, the sweeter the victory.'" Loza said. "We just have to know it's still in us and all that matters is how bad we want it."

Britt took the words to heart.

She still played her role as the supportive "Mom," but also took charge of UTC's fate, surging to individual medalist honors for her first career tournament win.

"I felt like I had a job to do. I felt like I owed it to myself, owed it to my team and my coach and all our supporters," Britt said. "The last couple holes were a struggle, but I kept my head down, ground it out, and it worked."

And it helped put the Mocs in the NCAA Regionals for a fourth straight season.

Chattanooga will open play in the East Region at State College, Pa., on Thursday, where the top eight teams will advance to the NCAA Championships.

UTC's No. 21 seed in the 24-team field makes it clear that many doubted they'd get to this point this season.

But not Murray.

The now ever-optimistic UTC coach was thinking positive thoughts all along.

"We don't expect anything less than being successful," she said. "We've got extremely high expectations and standards for our program, so I was never surprised by my team.

"They surprise me every day with something, but I was never anticipating us finishing the season in April."

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