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Season Preview: Young Vaqueros open at Desert Classic

Saralisa Ortega, top left, is the only returner from last year's State Championship squad.
Saralisa Ortega, top left, is the only returner from last year's State Championship squad.

SBCC had a dream season last year when it captured its third State women's golf title in the last eight years. The Vaqueros went 69-3 overall and were a perfect 32-0 in Western State Conference play.

Most of those players have departed with State individual champion Fanny Johansson now playing for San Jose State. The only returner is Saralisa Ortega, a sophomore from Santa Barbara High.

"We have a nice group with a great deal of talent but not a whole lot of experience," said coach Chuck Melendez. "So I think it's going to take a while before we start playing well and being competitive."

The Vaqueros open in the Desert Classic on Saturday and Sunday at Indian Canyons GC in Palm Springs. Temperatures are expected to top 105 degrees.

Melendez is starting his 15th year as head coach. He has a winning percentage of .705 in conference (373-156-1) and he's been named WSC Coach of the Year five times, including last season.

Ortega was a first-team All-WSC choice last year. She tied her season best with a 3-over-par 75 in the final round of the Southern Cal Regional and placed seventh, helping SBCC win the title by 15 shots. She placed 19th in the State Championships.

"Rebecca Valice redshirted last year and she's playing a lot better," Melendez noted. "I think she and Saralisa will lead our team. Saralisa has been playing real well and she'll have a chance to win the individual state championship.

"It's hard to say who will emerge after that. I like Nicole Reynolds a great deal. She was the best golfer at Clovis High in her first two years and then got into volleyball. It's taken her a while to get the rust off. She's real athletic and determined and stubborn. It takes a little stubbornness to be good at golf."

The Vaqueros will play in the South Coast Classic and WSC No. 1 on Sept. 7-8 before making their only home appearance of the year on Monday, Sept. 15 in WSC No. 2 at the Santa Barbara Golf Club.

"The good thing for this year is we have a bunch of very good freshmen who are willing to learn and take initiative with their hard work," Melendez concluded. "It's going to be tough for us to compete on the state level but if we keep working at it, we should have a pretty solid season."