__COACHES OF THE (MID-)YEAR
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Trey Jones, Florida State
The Seminoles barely cracked the Golf World/Nike Golf preseason top 25 in September. Four fall starts later, Jones' squad has two victories, three top-five finishes and a No. 5 national ranking.
In his sixth year at Florida State, Jones has built a program that is a consistent contender in the ACC, having claimed its first conference title in 2008. While talented, the team is also hungry, in part because it has failed to get out of regionals the past two seasons. Motivation to avenge those late season slips, along with a deep roster, should have Jones heading to nationals come May.
*Honorable mention: J.T. Higgins, Texas A&M
*Having lost his top player, Bronson Burgoon, and having to deal with the hangover of winning the NCAA title in dramatic fashion last June, would you have blamed Higgins if his team started slow in its title defense? Instead, the Aggies have two wins and four top-five finishes in four starts.
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Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, Michigan State
She has built a program that consistently advances to the NCAA Championship while rarely landing a five-star national recruit. It doesn't matter to Slobodnik-Stoll, who takes pride in finding diamonds in the rough and fashioning a team whose sum is greater than the whole of its parts. Such is the case in 2009-10, as Michigan State picked up arguably the biggest win in school history at the Lady Tar Heel ... this after winning the Mary Fossum Invitational back in East Lansing.
The Spartans finished the fall ranked sixth in the Golf World/NGCA coaches' poll. Helping them maintain their spot nationally will be the regional challenge they face in Purdue. Says here that the MSU-Purdue showdown this spring for the Big Ten title could be the most entertaining conference race in the country. That competition will toughen both teams for the post-season.
*Honorable mention: Nancy McDaniel, California
*The veteran Golden Bears coach successfully acclimated a pair of talented transfers (Joanne Lee and Emily Childs) to help revamp Cal's line-up. The results—a victory at the Edean Ilhanfeldt Invitational, plus two other top-five finishes—have Cal making noise nationally for the first time in recent memory.