Q&A with Kim Lewellen (Dec. 10)
The Virginia women’s golf team heads into the winter break ranked in the top-10 of all the major golf polls. This fall the Cavaliers won the Golfweek Conference Challenge and sophomore Brittany Altomare took medalist honors at two tournaments. UVa coach Kim Lewellen talks about the team’s efforts and the outlook for the spring with VirginiaSports.com.
Question: What are your thoughts on the team’s performance this fall?
Lewellen: It was an interesting fall. We had a lot of players who played in the lineup. I want to say that every single tournament had a different lineup, which was exciting. It gave a lot of people a lot of time to play. It showed that we really have a lot of depth. We performed well with a lot of different combinations, which makes it exciting looking forward to the spring because we play so many different types of courses, and I think some people’s games are suitable for different types of courses. It was exciting for me to evaluate the fall.
We played well, but I don’t think we played completely up to our potential that we could’ve played. We finished well in the rankings for the fall, but I think we left some things out there. It was interesting because we didn’t have all players play well at the same tournament. You keep thinking that when that comes, how exciting that will be.
Saying that, I was very happy with how our first year – Portland (Rosen) – did when we put her out there in her first event. She played very well, and that’s exciting for me to see going into the spring-to see her put that low of numbers down, coming right out of the gate as a first year. Brittany (Altomare) winning two tournaments was exciting for the team. And Calle (Nielson), even though she didn’t perform well in the last tournament, had one of her best falls that she’s ever had here at Virginia. We have so many. Eleana (Collins) played well in the tournament she played in, Lauren (Greenlief) had her best outing at the Golfweek Challenge and Joy (Kim) played great in the last tournament. We have Elizabeth Brightwell, who we haven’t put in the lineup but who will be put in the lineup either as a team player or as an individual in the first tournament because I’m curious to see what she’ll do. We just have a lot of depth, and I think it’s exciting for the team and for the coaches for the spring.
Question: What did it mean for the team to win the Golfweek Conference Challenge?
Lewellen: It was interesting. The Golfweek Challenge chooses a team from each conference, so we were not only representing our team as Virginia but we were representing our conference. When you were there, you had that feeling that you were representing your conference. It was much more than individual titles or team titles-it was a conference title. Everyday, it was exciting out there. The course was challenging, especially the greens. So we had to think a lot throughout it, we had to use a lot of strategy, and to come through the last day and win that was exciting for the team and, I think, for the ACC, too.
Question: After playing well last spring and putting together a strong fall season, what do you expect of sophomore Brittany Altomare in the future?
Lewellen: When you watch her scores, and as a coach when you watch her play, she is a very consistent player. She’s very, very strong mentally. All of the aspects of her game are good. She played very well this fall, but there was still room for improvement. We have tackled those areas that I think she needs to work on in order to perform even better than she did this fall. She performed phenomenally. It is exciting for her to know that she didn’t go out and play her best, but that she does have some room for improvement, and that those scores can go down. I think she can definitely contend for a national championship, and if she comes out of the gates strong, I think she could contend for player of the year. She’s that good of a player.
Question: How much motivation do you expect Calle Nielson to have heading into this spring, knowing it will be her last season playing in college?
Lewellen: She’s our team captain this year, and she’s very motivated to see the team do well. Like I said, she actually had a good fall for her, and I think that she’ll be a good team leader this spring and that she’ll be extremely motivated. She’s a hard worker now, and I think she’ll continue to do that and work harder because I think that the team sees that these championships are reachable. I think Callie would like to go out with some team championships under her belt.
Question: What are your thoughts on next year’s recruiting class?
Lewellen: I have a great recruiting class. I have two “out-westeners” in Kaira Martin and Briana Mao. They’re two wonderful players who have established themselves nationally and have played a lot of competitive golf. I think they’re going to come in here and make an immediate impact and do well. They’re outstanding students and individuals, as well. Then I have Lauren Coughlin, who is my Virginia girl. She has not played nationally as much as the other two, but I think that once she gets here with the resources that Virginia can provide her she’s going to turn quickly into an outstanding player and contributor to our team.