A Legendary North Central Women’s Golfer Returns as a New Coach
North Central alumna Alyssa Guss is unquestionably a legend of Cardinals Women’s Golf, as the program’s first ever All American and individual CCIW women’s golf conference champion and a two-time national qualifier. She can now add head coach to her list of North Central titles, as a convenient coincidence of events let to her taking over the program ahead of the 2022/23 school year.
“My husband and I found out we were having our second child and we figured being closer to family and having the support system was something we cared about,” said Guss on how she found her way back to Naperville after most recently coaching at Division I school Oakland University in Michigan. “And yes, that meant me stepping away from Division I and coming back home. But I couldn’t have made a better choice and I’m excited to be back here. I didn’t think it was going to be as soon as it was. I knew the position was open and so kind of went from there.”
Guss Gets Right to Work
Guss’ appointment came just a month before the start of the collegiate golf season and was thus as much a surprise to the team’s members as anyone. Even with a short runway, they found that she made an immediate impact on the team to point them in a positive direction.
“I feel like we had a lot of potential,” said senior Tatiana Cooper of the team at the start of the fall season. “I feel like a lot of structure was brought into place. It allowed us to like, focus specifically on what we wanted to work on. So I feel like a lot of improvement happened when we had that structure and we had an idea of like what to work on and what we need to specifically pinpoint in improving as a team and as an individual.”
“I wasn’t recruited by coach Alyssa so I was a little scared and nervous because I didn’t I didn’t know what to expect,” said freshman Mallorie Clifton. “And coming in as a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect. So it’s just all brand new and scary. I think she’s definitely grown my game from like fall to spring.”
This year was simply the first chapter of what Guss hopes will be a story of North Central Women’s Golf team returning to the kind of success she played such a large role in. Clifton was the team’s lowest average scorer, while Cooper was second, and the team finished 5th overall at the CCIW Championship in the fall led by a 13th-place individual finish for Clifton.
“A lot of adjustments this fall, probably for the players and myself and just getting to know each other,” said Guss of where she began with the new team. “But a lot more with learning skills and drills and working on that stuff and having a little more discipline to our practice and what we’re doing.”
“Honestly, I just came here to play,” said Clifton. “I didn’t care if I was number one or I was like, number five. I just wanted to play. So being number one was obviously awesome as a freshman, but I would take any spot, you know?”
“I knew coming into it that I was the only upperclassman or senior of the team and I knew that I had a responsibility to like paint a good picture for everyone and help lead, help the coach and just like aid in whatever was necessary,” said Cooper. “I knew that people were going to look up and see like that I did have an impact. I couldn’t just ignore that, and I hope that would trickle down to everyone else.”
A Surprising but Refreshing Year for NCC Golf
While the way this year played out may have been unexpected, it was surprising in good ways. From Guss’ hiring, to Clifton’s breakout debut year, to a noticeable increased confidence throughout the roster, this team has found it’s footing over the last nine months and have the drive to aim higher for lower scores.
“Thinking that I know how much I loved it, how much success I had, wanting to see both programs achieve that and hopefully break every single goal and record that’s here and surpass that,” said Guss, who also now coaches the North Central men’s golf team. “And that would be my goal is to coach a Hall of Famer, coach a team that maybe has a chance of the Hall of Fame, but to get both programs to raise to the level that I know that they can be at.”
“Honestly, it’s actually really awesome because we want to be that team that’s driven and we want to like fight for the top three, you know, and not just be like a team where you’re just like, ‘Oh, North Central,’ we want to be out there like, you know, competitive and strong and we want to do good,” Clifton said. “So I think it’s a big motivator because we don’t want to just be the team that’s like just there.”
“I think they have a lot of potential,” Cooper said of her now former teammates. “I feel like every practice there’s always some sort of improvement. Every time we have a tournament, there’s always good things coming out of it, even though it’s not always the best that we want to be. But we have a lot of potential and I feel like people want to do better. So I feel like there’s a lot of a lot of good things coming.”
“I think a lot have bought into the concept of wanting to be as good as they can be,” said Guss. “There’s no right or wrong on what you want to achieve and who you want to be. And I think those that want to have success have worked hard and show up and are trying to continue to show up and show that that’s what they want. And it’s all I could have asked for this year. Lots to continue to grow on, to continue to be better at and it was a really good start.”