Henrik Norlander thought last year's NCAA regional was going to be a breeze.
He and his Augusta State teammates claimed a pair of victories in a six-day stretch last spring. Six weeks later, the Jaguars entered the Division II Southeast Regional with thoughts of making the NCAA Championships. But Augusta State posted a disappointing 11th-place finish to end its season.
"I felt like we were going to cruise through that and be able to focus on nationals," Norlander said. "That wasn't the case. If you don't play well, you're not going to get through. But now, we're so much stronger."
The fifth-ranked Jaguars are taking nothing for granted this time around. Augusta State is participating in the 54-hole NCAA San Diego Regional, which runs today through Saturday.
Augusta State has to finish in the top five of the 13-team event to advance to the NCAA Championships, June 1-6, in Ooltewah, Tenn.
"I think everybody feels good," sophomore Taylor Floyd said. "Everybody seems to be playing OK. I like our chances. We're all feeling good about it."
The Jaguars have won three of their 10 tournaments this season, and they've finished in the top five in their past eight events. Augusta State is led by Norlander, a junior, and sophomore Patrick Reed.
Reed and Norlander are each ranked in the top 20 in Division I, according to Golfweek -- Reed is No. 9; Norlander is No. 16. Reed, a semifinalist for the Hogan Award, leads the team with a 70.86 stroke average. He won the Seahawk Intercollegiate and finished second in his past two events.
Norlander, a Palmer Cup selection, holds a 71.04 average. He leads the team with eight top-20 finishes in 10 events.
Junior Mitch Krywulycz (72.11) and Floyd (73.04) each have five top-20 finishes this season, while junior Carter Newman (73.11) has three.
With Augusta State's balance, Reed said, the team should do well at the regional.
"If one guy plays real well and the other guys don't play well, the team will finish in the top five," Reed said. "If two of us play well, we're either finishing second or winning the event. If all of us play well, it'll just be a walkover."
The Jaguars, who are 9-1 against teams in the regional, will be looking to get off to a good start. In three of its five spring events, Augusta State has shot 295 or worse in the first round. In the other two events, the Jaguars shot 274 and 280 and went onto claim those two tournaments.
Augusta State golf coach Josh Gregory attributed his team's slow starts to the pressure of being highly ranked. Also, he said individual players, with goals of earning All-American status and making the Palmer Cup team, placed the burden of playing well on themselves
"Sometimes you got out there in the first round and forced it a bit," he said. "My hope for this team over the next couple of events is that the individual goals are put aside right now. We have two focuses and that's to get ready for the NCAA regionals and to try and win an NCAA championship."