After a 3-1 win over Geneva College last Thursday, the Lady Barons golf team returned to its normal practice routine in preparation for its next match.
Mitchell Morelli, who became head coach of the four-member team in October 2018, said that the primary goal for the team right now is to peak at the upcoming Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) championship. Morelli hopes the team can continue to progress and improve as the championship approaches, with two rounds in the fall and one in the spring.
“We’re on the right track right now, and then, going into the spring,” Morelli said, the team will “really just refine our craft over the winter and be able to come out and play our best.”
Morelli acknowledged that with the golf program being so new, there will surely be plenty of “hurdles and obstacles” for the team to overcome as they strive to get better. With the PAC championship in mind, Morelli said the team should learn as much as possible and seek to prove themselves at all times.
Morelli expressed his optimism about peaking in the PAC: “We were pre-season number five in the PAC. From what we’ve seen, we’ll be right in it, really. The PAC has one to two really good schools in it, and we’ll be right in it. It’ll be interesting — it’s at a pretty tough course, really nice course. We’re going up there to practice this week, so that’ll tell a lot.”
The team practices at the Steubenville Country Club, where its most recent match was hosted. The team itself is comprised of freshmen Hailey Jansen and Isabella Zavala, sophomore Marcella Travis and senior Dennise Carrazco. Having four players satisfies the bare minimum match requirement with all of the players’ scores being counted. Morelli says that the turnout for the team is reasonable considering it is a first-year program.
Additionally, he mentioned how much the team has improved, while maintaining that they still have room to grow.
“I don’t think any coach is ever content with the skill level of their team,” he said. “We’re trying to get better every day. We’re at the halfway point in the season, so there’s a lot to work on every day.”
Morelli himself is a Steubenville native who has been coaching since college. A lifetime golfer, he is a graduate of Robert Morris University, where he began his coaching career. Beginning as a student assistant for the women’s basketball team at Robert Morris, Morelli “got the edge for coaching” working with basketball and club basketball teams.
Regarding why he chose the coaching position for the Lady Barons, Morelli said he wanted to return to coaching after he had graduated and moved back home. “I could blend my passion for coaching with my passion for golf and kind of mix both,” he said, and with the position at Franciscan close to home, the job was a good fit.
Morelli described how golf involves analytical thinking and detail assessment. In that vein, Morelli calls himself more of a mental coach than a physical coach because the physical side of golf differs so greatly from person to person. He discussed how coaching golf requires a certain leadership style centered around individual growth.
“Everyone has their own routine,” he explained. “You’ve got to know what works for you in golf … (When shooting yardages,) see how far out we are, think it through, assess the land, assess everything and just make the most comprehensive decisions.”
One adjustment that the team overcame was the mentality of playing against an opponent during one-on-one match play rather than playing against a course. Morelli said he was proud of how the team members adapted to that change but they still need to get stronger both physically and mentally.
Similarly, Morelli said he wants to see his players exhibiting values such as honesty and courteousness, particularly when dealing with other teams, courses or equipment. According to Morelli, sportsmanship and dedication are the main focuses for which the team should strive.
In addition to being dedicated on the course, the team is also dedicated to the faith. Morelli and the team go to weekly Mass Fridays at 4:45 p.m., after practicing on the intramural fields. In addition, the team is planning a retreat for the spring. Morelli cites the team chaplain Father Matthew Russick, TOR, as being instrumental in guidance for the Lady Barons.
“(We pray) before and after practice and matches,” Morelli explained. “You never really know the impact of that. Praying at the country club out in the middle of the putting green — you don’t know who’s going to see that or who that’s going to touch.”