While the men’s golf team is hoping to improve on its 2000 third-place Ivy League finish, the women’s team is looking to defend its 2000 Ancient Eight title.

Despite a lackluster fall season in which the men’s team finished sixth at Yale’s Fall Intercollegiate Tournament and fifth at the Dartmouth Invitational, which they had won the previous year, the team still stands firmly behind its pre-season goals. Men’s head coach Dave Paterson, who has led seven Ivy champion teams, believes this year’s Eli squad can not only gain the Ivy title but also secure another NCAA tournament berth.

Last season, the team placed third in the Ivy championships and was knocked out of the NCAA East Regionals by Dartmouth. But with the addition this year of freshmen talents Alex Fulton ’04 — a collegiate rookie who traveled to every tournament in the fall — Neel Williams ’04, Ben Levy ’04 and Tommy Tangtiphaiboontana ’04 to the returning depth of team captain Louis Aurelio ’01, Eddie Brockner ’01, and Chris Eckerle ’02, the team feels it is especially solid.

“This is one of our best recruiting classes yet,” Adam Schempp ’03 said. “We really have the talent to win the Ivy championships this year because of our incredible depth — we have 10 really solid players. Anyone on the team can beat any player on a given day.”

But the team’s depth has also proven to be problematic for the Elis’ success. Since only five players compete at once, the Elis aren’t limited to a core group of players for every tournament. This was detrimental to their fall season because the team couldn’t always rely on a constant, high level of play. Aurelio said that he hopes the team can put forward a set group of competitors this spring.

“What we hope for this spring is that everyone plays their best golf on the days of the tournaments,” Schempp said. “We had some record scores during our practices [in the fall], but this didn’t always transfer in our competitions.”

But the team has stepped up its preparation, and this winter saw the introduction of a weight training program and increased practice times at multiple ranges to improve everyone’s short game. Aurelio also said that, apart from their physical conditioning, the most important benefit of the training was getting the team in a competitive frame of mind.

“Over the winter, we committed to having a better spring, and it seems the team is finally coming together,” Eckerle said. “I fully believe that there is not one team that can compete with us if we stay focused. The talent this team possesses is outstanding.”

The men will start off their season hosting the Yale spring opener on the weekend of April 6, where they will face 2000 Ivy champion Princeton. The following weekend, they will compete in the crucial Ivy League championships April 13, where a victory will guarantee automatic entry to the NCAA Regionals.

“We are only lacking that intangible aspect of putting everything together now,” Aurelio said. “This is by far one of the strongest teams we’ve had in a long time. We just need to go out there with confidence and play well.”

On the flip side, the small but talented women’s team hopes to continue last season’s success when it opens its season at the William and Mary Invitational March 31. The women currently hold the Ivy title and have won the Ivy championships in three of the last four years.

But their fall results bode for a much tougher season than the team has seen in the past couple of years, winning only one of the five tournaments in which they competed.

“The fall was frustrating because stroke-wise, we were doing better than last year, but we only won one tournament,” captain Sarah Seo ’02 said. “This just shows how strong the league has gotten — the other teams have been catching up to our level of improvement.”

With the rising success of several Ivy teams such as Brown and Dartmouth this year, the team cannot expect the fight for the Ivy title to remain between them and traditional rival Princeton.

But Seo remains confident her team will be successful. Three players will return from last year’s championship team, including Seo — who won the tournament individually last year. She also expects rookies Katie Hatsushi ’04 and Andia Winslow ’04 to have immediate impacts. Hatsushi has already been incorporated into the core of the team, participating in all five tournaments this fall.

“We know how to win the Ivies, what it takes, which is a key advantage,” Seo said. “It’s going to be harder this year, but we are excited to take on the season. It’s nice to know that we are making others around us step up their play. I think this is a big compliment [to the team].”