RUSSELLVILLE — Off its first GAC Championship since the 2018-19 season, the Henderson State men’s golf program was picked first by the league’s coaches in the 2022 Great American Conference Preseason Poll, the league announced Thursday.
The Reddies edged out Southwestern Oklahoma State for the top spot, garnering 59 total votes and five first-place votes. The Bulldogs (3) and Arkansas Tech (1) picked up the remaining first-place nods. Harding, Tech and Southern Arkansas filled out the rest of the Top-5.
Last year’s championship came down to HSU and SWOSU dueling it out in a playoff hole after both teams were tied after regulation. Josh McNulty and Alex Hadden both eagled the playoff hole to give the Reddies the dramatic victory and their sixth conference championship in nine years.
In addition to its success in conference, Henderson has made nine consecutive NCAA Regionals, finishing in 11th place at last year’s postseason tournament after stormy conditions plagued the course the entire weekend, keeping the HSU men from making their first ever trip to Nationals. With head coach Colton Cowan now in his second year at the helm of the program, Cowan and company have their eyes set on even loftier goals.
“Last year, we weren’t prepared to play in the conditions we were given. I take full responsibility for that. The men battled the best they could, [we just] failed to prepare accordingly,” Cowan said. “Going into this year, we will be more prepared for any conditions. My philosophy is to ensure we are mentally, physically and emotionally ready to compete at a high level.”
Henderson loses Mitchell Ford and Nick Shapiro, both of whom have been staples to the program the last six years. Stepping into leadership roles will be the aforementioned McNulty, junior Miller Harris, who was apart of last year’s championship team, and junior Nathan Cossement.
The Reddies bring in four new faces, including university of Hawaii junior transfer Kanapos Visuttipina, along with true freshmen Jacob Knowlton, Collin Purifoy and Cooper Williams. The Henderson men will begin their fall 2022 season with the NSU Classic hosted by Northeastern State Sept. 19-20 in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Women’s Golf picked to repeat as GAC champions
The Henderson State women’s golf program was selected to defend its GAC Championship crown in 2022, the league announced Tuesday afternoon. This is the second consecutive year HSU was picked first in the Great American Conference Preseason Poll.
In the 2022 edition of the preseason conference rankings, the Reddies gathered every single first-place vote from the league’s coaches for a grand total of 64 total votes. Southwestern Oklahoma State (50) narrowly edged out Harding (49) for second place, while Arkansas Tech (48) and Oklahoma Baptist (5) rounded out the Top-5.
Henderson returns Gracen Blount, Allie Bianchi and Daphney Titlon from last season’s squad that saw HSU’s first ever Central Regional Championship and second ever trip to the NCAA National Championships, finishing ninth in the nation. The trio of Reddie returners were all named All-GAC last year while Blount was tabbed the unanimous GAC Player of the Year and NCAA All-American.
Head coach Colton Cowan, now in his second year with the program, will have to replace Hannah Choi and Karen Lee from last year’s championship team. The Reddies’ 2022 recruiting class features true freshman Lily Nelson out of Commerce City, Colorado and junior transfers Jinna Boonbumroongsuk and Emmie Eriksson from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and Murray State, respectively.
“Our team is not made up of two individuals, it’s made up of a collected group of individuals that have the same vision,” Cowan said ahead of the 2022 fall season. “The reality of today’s world is we will constantly have players come and go, but [our job is to make] sure we keep bringing in players that are like-minded and have the same vision.”
Henderson will open its 2022 fall season with the Central Regional Preview in Blue Springs, Missouri Sept. 6-7 before heading to Denton, Texas for the Dallas Baptist Women’s Classic Sept. 19-20. Following that will be the National Championship Preview in Eureka, Missouri Oct. 10-11 before HSU hosts its own Battle for the Belt at Hot Springs Country Club Oct. 17-18.
The fall season will come to a close in the Sooner State when the Reddies head to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the Tulsa Cup, hosted by in-region foe Rogers State, Oct. 24-25.
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