One year in the Horizon League, two championships for IUPUI

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Senior Elizabeth Orr helped lead her 2017-18 squad to the Horizon League championship. Photo provided by Ed Holdaway, IUPUI Athletics

One year ago, new competition, rivalries and championships were on the Horizon for IUPUI Athletics.

Despite unfamiliar foes, it took only months for the Jaguars to collect their first Horizon League championship. The women's soccer team (14-6-3 overall, 6-2-1 in-conference) made school history for earning IUPUI's first Horizon trophy and appearing in the NCAA tournament. While defeated by the University of Notre Dame in the opening round on Nov. 11, the match was huge for the squad.

"At Notre Dame, we were on the big stage, and it was eye-opening -- a really good experience for the kids coming back," said Alison Conquest, the team's associate head coach. "The Horizon League has a lot of good teams, good competition and good coaching staffs, and it was a fun ride."

The soccer team's victorious season was bookended by the women's golf team's league victory this spring. In April, the Jaguar linkswomen putted themselves to the Horizon championship, and the team competed in the NCAA regional qualification tournament held in Verona, Wisconsin.

"In the Summit League, the conference tournament was in Denver, and it gave the kids only 24 or 48 hours to adjust to the altitude," Conquest said. "In the Horizon, it's more centralized, and we have a better fan base. The student-athletes are also missing a lot less school."

IUPUI women's golf performed well at invitationals before winning the Horizon tournament. Aneta Abrahamova, who graduated in May, earned league player-of-the-year honors. The young Slovakian golfing phenomenon graduated, but the team has added new players. They are ready to defend their title.

"We know it's going to be harder to come back and do it again," said Elizabeth Orr, a senior marketing major.

The team embraced the conference change and new challenges. Orr admitted some new courses cost them some shots, but new head coach Jamie Broce spent many hours breaking down each hole of each course. He orchestrated valuable practice time for his athletes like a maestro.

How other IUPUI Athletics programs fared in their first season in the Horizon League:

IUPUI Athletics finished No. 3 out of the 10 schools in the Horizon League McCafferty Trophy all-sports standings, announced in June. Women's programs ranked No. 2 overall, just four points behind Oakland.

As the season went along, the team got accustomed to its home course, the Broadmoor Country Club in Indianapolis. There was a home-course advantage the team didn't have in previous seasons. Orr said the team's short game tightened up, and they entered the Horizon tournament on a hot streak.

The team gelled off the course, too.

"The older girls would help, and we all branched out more and relied on others," said Nicole Howard, a sophomore majoring in pre-med exercise science. "It's an individual sport, but we want to pick this girl up. We told each other, 'We can win this.' Keep doing the hard work we do."

While the announcement of the move to the Horizon League generated immediate excitement on campus, the buzz extended throughout the 2017-18 academic year. Orr, who played half of her collegiate career in the Summit League, has noticed more excitement for athletics at IUPUI.

"It created a hype and a buzz in the school -- for the student-athletes and the teams," said the West Baden native. "I can't wait for another year."