Seniors leading way as Mavericks await Division II golf tournament

Colorado Mesa University senior golfers, from left, Jessica Berve, Afton Balling and Jennifer Hilts, helped lead the Mavericks to their first national tournament in the program’s history. The NCAA Division II national championship tournament begins Wednesday at Persimmon Ridge Country Club in Louisville, Ky.

They came to what was then Mesa State College without knowing anyone.

Now, Colorado Mesa University senior golfers Afton Balling, Jessica Berve and Jennifer Hilts are good friends.

“We didn’t know each other,” Hilts said. “I think we definitely grew a lot closer our first year because we had Sadie (Peavler), the senior. We were friends with her, but she intimidated us, so we all stuck together. Now, we help the younger girls. We hang out a lot more, we take classes together.”

The three seniors lead their women’s golf teammates into the NCAA Division II national championship tournament, beginning Wednesday at Persimmon Ridge Country Club in Louisville, Ky. It is the first time the Mavericks entire team has qualified for nationals in the program’s six-year history. Mesa has reached the Super Region the past four seasons.

“We were hoping to send at least a couple people, if not the whole team (to nationals),” said Hilts, who qualified for nationals as an individual last year. “We’ve been playing well all season. We knew it was in our sights.

“We played really well at regionals. We had some funky weather. We battled through some stuff. It’s exciting to take the whole team.”

The Mavericks overcame wind gusts and a lightning/rain delay to place second in the NCAA Super Region 3 tournament last week in Elephant Butte, N.M. The top three teams from the four super regions qualified for nationals.

“We all wanted it throughout the year,” Hilts said. “At regionals, (coach Scott Hansen) made sure we understood we had to play well to go to nationals. We thought we would. When we did a crossover tournament, we beat a bunch of the schools already.”

Balling, Berve, freshman Alisa Lindsay and junior Michelle Stripp were curious about nationals and Hilts had some fun imparting her knowledge.

“We were all curious (about nationals),” Balling said. “She told us we’re going to have the time of our life. They spoil us there. I’m OK with that.

“Obviously, we’re going to try to play our best, but we don’t have high expectations to win it. We want to go and have fun. The fact we get to play in it, we’re still among the top 12 teams in the nation, as long as we beat Western (New Mexico).”

Berve, who is from Farmington, N.M., would love to beat Western New Mexico. Her older sister played there.

“I wanted to go to nationals no matter what, but as a team is so much better,” Berve said. “If I had to go individually, that would’ve been awesome, too. I’m so excited we get to go, especially with three seniors. It’s such a blessing to have this opportunity. We were so close last year.”

It will be one final tournament together for the three seniors, who leaned on each other throughout their careers.

“We have other friends, but we’re all on the same schedule, so it’s easier to go do something together,” Balling said.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot,” Berve said. “I’ve gotten better. It helps having good teammates. We push each other to do our best.”

Berve graduated Saturday with a degree in chemistry. She plans to try to play on a women’s pro tour in Phoenix.

“I’m going to try to get better,” she said. “If not, I’ll go to med school or something.”


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