After a year of highs and lows, Bradley women’s golf is gearing up for another season on the links.
Head coach Halley Morell believes that this team has what it takes to compete against everyone in the Missouri Valley Conference. They’ve been close before, but never made it over the hump and hoisted the conference title under Morell. Some of the team’s goals for this season are to win the conference, win another tournament along the way and to have a blast.
“I know they’re gonna do everything it takes to put us in a position to be as successful as possible,” Morell said. “Golf is a sport that you can’t control the outcome all the time. You’re gonna get bad bounces, you’re gonna get bad weather, so you can’t be 100% in control of outcomes, but if we continue to focus on the things we can control and put in all the effort to put ourselves in that great position then we will continue to see success.”
Meet the players
Senior Grace Aromando is entering her second season for the Braves after transferring from Seminole State College last year. In last season’s MVC Tournament, Aromando tied for fourth to earn a spot on the MVC All-Tournament team. In 2023, she is looking for even more individual success in what will be her last season at Bradley.
“I want to leave everything on the course,” Aromando said. “As it’s my last year playing collegiate golf, I want to have no regrets. So if I can walk away saying ‘I did everything I could the best I could’ then I’ll have achieved my goal. You can expect to see determination. I’m determined to make this the best year yet for myself, but also for my team.”
Already shooting a career-best round in the first tournament, Aromando is excited to be back with her teammates.
“As a transfer, a year ago, I was worried that it would be tough to establish a relationship with the team quickly. I was extremely wrong,” Aromando said. “These people are my family and we treat each other as so.”
Another senior, Harriet Barker, continues to impress after she played 12 rounds last season, the most of her collegiate career. Despite not playing in the team’s first tournament last weekend, fans should still expect to see the England native get some time on the course.
Another familiar face returns as graduate student Mara Flaherty is entering her fifth season on the Hilltop. Averaging 78.41 strokes per round, Flaherty’s consistent play will make her an anchor for this team. With her second collegiate top 10 performance last season, Flaherty will look to finish her college career strong.
After having a small workload in her sophomore year, junior Kathryn McNease is looking to rebound after playing just six rounds last year. While only appearing in six rounds, McNease still scored a top 10 finish with an average of 79.83 strokes. She began her collegiate career playing in all but one tournament during her freshman year, so she’ll hope to field those opportunities again this season.
The other junior, Maria Perakis, has two strong seasons under her belt and is looking for a third this year. With two top-10 and four top-20 finishes, Perakis is a force to be reckoned with. With the help of “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect,” a book gifted to her by Morell, she is looking to stand out as an individual in this Bradley lineup.
“This summer I really focused on improving my mental game under pressure,” Perakis said. “Developing a better mindset about competing has helped me have more intentional practice sessions where I’m able to work on specific parts of my game.”
Overall, Perakis just wants to keep improving and make sure each part of her game is as strong as it can be.
“I think my full swing is the strongest part of my game right now. I have been able to keep the ball in play off the tee which has helped minimize making big numbers and I’ve been playing more strategic shots with my irons that are giving me more birdie opportunities,” Perakis said.
“My short game has improved over the past couple seasons, but it is still the weakest part of my game,” Perakis added. “I need to work on having better feel with both my chipping and putting, because sometimes I struggle to pick the correct aim and correct speed for some of those shots.”
Sophomore Allison Pacocha had an active freshman season, playing in 30 rounds. In her first taste of collegiate competition, she averaged 78.03 strokes per round and finished in the top 20 twice. With a low score of 71 strokes, Pacocha showed the MVC the kind of competitiveness she’ll bring to the course.
As for the newcomers, Brooke Deebs is looking to leave her mark. The freshman from Grand Oaks High School in Houston, TX comes into the program with eight high school wins.
The other newcomer is freshman Jillian Cosler, who comes from Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, IL. A two-time regional champion (2021 and 2022) and the 2022 Southwest Suburban Conference champion, Cosler is taking the next step in her golf career.
What to look out for
On Sept. 10 and 11, the Braves will head south on I-74 for Illinois State’s Redbird Invite. Last year at ISU, Perakis led the team with 226 strokes and tied for 17th place in the Invite. The team finished eighth out of the 15 attending schools.
On Oct. 7 and 8, the Braves will host the Coyote Creek Classic. Last year, the team finished in third place, falling behind Western Illinois and Butler, who tied for first. Flaherty was tied for second in the tournament, leading the Braves with 225 strokes.
On Apr. 14 and 16, Bradley heads to St. Louis for the Missouri Valley Conference Championship. The team took seventh out of 12 conference foes last year and are hoping to climb the rankings this season. Aromando tied for fourth, one stroke behind the three-way tie for first.
With a tournament already under their belt, Morell likes what she sees and can see a successful season on the horizon.
“Based on what I’ve seen so far in the first two weeks, I think the sky’s the limit for this group,” Morell said. “We have across the board a lot of talent, all eight players. I really think we can accomplish amazing things.”