In its first trip to the NAIA National Championships last year, the USC Beaufort women's golf team followed the curve set by the men's team a year earlier by finishing seventh.
Continuing to follow the men's trajectory in their second trip to nationals would allow the Sand Sharks to achieve their goal of a top-five finish at this year's tournament, which begins Tuesday at Link Hills Country Club in Greeneville, Tenn.
"We want to keep things going in the right direction," coach Emily Kuhfeld said. "It's really good that we're there again. ... Top five would be an amazing accomplishment, but it's definitely possible."
That goal will be more difficult to attain for the 11th-ranked Sand Sharks without junior Kaitlin O'Sullivan, who will miss the tournament for "behavior reasons," Kuhfeld said. O'Sullivan, who was named to the all-conference team after tying for third at the Sun Conference Championship, tied for 68th at nationals last year.
She will be replaced in the lineup by sophomore Phyllis Langley, one of two USCB players making their first appearance at nationals, along with freshman Kendra Collins.
That pair joins the experienced trio of sophomore Kelli Nakano and juniors Adriana Saavedra and Sophie Henke, who helped the Sand Sharks to that seventh-place finish last year. Kuhfeld hopes their experience will help the first-time players settled their nerves.
"I definitely have some pretty strong leaders going," Kuhfeld said. "Everybody is looking at it as taking positives from it. Kendra and Phyllis are looking at it as a learning experience. They're both playing really well right now, so I'm excited to see how they play."
The Sand Sharks will be paired with No. 3 British Columbia and No. 24 Dakota Wesleyan for the first two rounds with their tee times beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday and 1:50 p.m. Wednesday.
"I know we have a pretty deep team," Kuhfeld said. "I think if we can get four or five scores in the 70s every day, we'll be just fine."
A look at the USC Beaufort women's golfers who will compete in the NAIA Nationals Championship from Tuesday through Friday at Link Hills Country Club in Greeneville, Tenn. Three of the Sand Sharks' top five are veterans of last year's national championship, while the other two will make their first appearance.
Player Sun Conference finish Last year's finish
Kelli Nakano, Soph. 1st 83rd
Adriana Saavedra, Jr. 15th T-36th
Kendra Collins, Fr. T-18th DNP
Sophie Henke, Jr. 23rd T-20th
Phyllis Langley, Soph. DNP DNP