Junior Nicole Vandermade isn’t just the No. 2 starter for Texas — she’s also the team’s unofficial DJ.
“I have a team CD that I make for every trip,” she said earlier this week. “It’s a lot of what’s playing right now, and I’ll throw in a couple of random songs here and there, like the last couple of CDs I put some Backstreet Boys on.”
Her teammates are happy that Vandermade is hitting tough shots on the links as well as playing good tunes on the stereo.
“I think her last CD was the best one yet,” said sophomore Madison Pressel, the team’s No. 1 starter this weekend. “She always has a CD to try and pump us up before the tournament.”
Even Haley Stephens, a sophomore from South Carolina who was raised on country music, is a convert.
“Now it’s like I’m totally into the rap. I’m totally converted,” Stephens said. “I don’t know if the CDs played a part or not, but my music tastes have definitely changed.”
The music is entertaining, yes — but it’s also become an important pre-tournament ritual to the team.
“Some of the songs are the same, of course,” Stephens said. “If we have favorites, we keep that mojo going. We keep ‘em in there.”
That doesn’t mean everyone is happy all the time, however.
“The Backstreet Boys I could do without,” Stephens joked. “I liked everything else. It was just a little too old school for me.”
Rituals are important heading into this weekend’s first postseason event in Columbia. Aside from the name, the Big 12 championship is like any other tournament. As usual, the team left Austin on Wednesday, practiced at Old Hawthorne on Thursday and competes today through Sunday. Vandermade has played this tournament before, so besides being the DJ for the team, she is also a mentor.
“It’s same format as any other tournament,” she said. “So you don’t need to think of it any differently. It’s going to be, obviously, a bigger stage, but just treat it as any other tournament, and go out there and play your game.”
One minor difference from previous tournaments is the size of the field. The Longhorns will play against all 12 conference teams, a small number since the Longhorns are used to competing against 15 to 18 teams per event.
“This is actually easy on one hand because you play faster,” said head coach Martha Richards. “Rounds go faster and smoother.”
The Longhorns go into the tournament ranked No. 2 in the Big 12, meaning they will tee off with top-seeded Iowa State and No. 3 seed Oklahoma on Friday. After that, the lowest-shooting three teams will play together each day while the remaining nine squads will be grouped into threesomes based on their previous round scores.
“I think if we go in there and we press and we try to win the Big 12, that typically doesn’t go well, and it doesn’t go well with this group,” Richards said. “When you go out and play golf, you can’t be thinking about winning. For us, thinking about winning the Big 12 is every day we are practicing.”
As usual, the Longhorns slipped an unlabeled burnt CD into the stereo in the rental van as they rolled out of the airport on Wednesday toward their hotel. As Vandermade’s playlist came over the speakers, the rest of the Longhorns began to focus on the tournament ahead, and they hope to be singing a winning tune when they return to Austin at the end of the weekend.