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A much-improved UTEP women’s golf team will look to surprise the field at next week’s Conference USA Championship, which tees off on Monday in Fort Myers, Fla.

“Because of the season we’ve had, we’ve got to win to continue on to regionals,” coach Jere Pelletier said on Thursday. “There are quite a few teams this year that are ahead of us. I think we are ranked sixth or seventh. But we have surprised them before, and I think the mindset is we don’t have anything to lose. We’ve just got to get out there and play and hopefully we can surprise them again.”

Six years ago, the Miners entered the C-USA Championship rated seventh among league teams but captured their first league title, overthrowing no. 13 Tulane and no. 42 Tulsa in the process.

UTEP has put together a strong season that included one tournament title and three runner-up finishes in the fall. The Miners appear to have regained their stride in the last two spring tournaments, tying for third place at the Little Rock/Arkansas State Invitational and tying for sixth at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic.

The Miners have strength at the top of their lineup in sophomore Lily Downs (75.2 scoring average), senior Alisa Rodriguez (75.4) and junior June Ting (75.7). Downs and Ting have both claimed tournament titles this season. All three have picked up six top-20 finishes in 2016-17.

“You’re hoping everybody is peaking at the same time and playing their best,” Pelletier said. “We seem to be playing pretty good right now. Alisa, Lily and June have been steady all year. The key for us in the conference is going to be to get one of the other two players to play well. My senior Sofia [Castiello] is starting to play good, and my freshman Abbie (Anghelescu) has shown some real signs of improvement this spring and I think she’s going to play well.”

A total of 11 teams will participate in the championship at the par-72, 6,194-yard Verandah Golf Club. Eighteen holes will be played each day, Monday through Wednesday. Old Dominion enters as the favorite with a no. 63 ranking by GolfStat. UTEP is rated no. 126. Live stats will be available at www.golfstat.com.

The tournament was also in Fort Myers a year ago.

“Alisa and Sofia played [the course] well last year,” Pelletier said. “Lily played pretty well. And right now Lily seems to be playing the best of all three of them. I think it’s going to be a dogfight to see which one comes in first.”

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