After an up-and-down regular season full of tests, the University of Wisconsin women’s golf team will face its biggest challenge yet at this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament in East Lansing, Mich. Pitted against the conference’s best and Michigan State’s demanding course, junior Katie Elliot and her young teammates know the road won’t be easy to improve upon last year’s ninth-place finish.Scouting the competition, Purdue and Michigan State are the early favorites. Purdue is ranked No. 8 nationally and has won four events heading into the championship weekend. Michigan State isn’t far behind at No. 22 and will prove to be tough competition considering that it hosts the tournament.Handling the par 72, 6,237-yard Forest Akers West Golf Course under the pressures of a major event will be no easy task for the Badgers either, and scores may be higher than average.”The greens will be fast, the rough will be long and the tees will be back,” UW head coach Todd Oehrlein said during a media conference prior to the team’s departure. To make matters worse, the women’s team will also be battling the elements over the course of the weekend, as rainstorms and brisk, windy conditions are expected to develop.The season for the Badgers has been tough, to say the least; they notched only one victory against rival University of Minnesota during the third-annual Wisconsin/Minnesota Cup in February. However, Oehrlein has remained upbeat about UW’s performance, and has commended the team for its progress throughout the season.”It’s a young group that’s worked extremely hard, has outstanding leadership and outstanding chemistry,” Oehrlein said.One of the most impressive storylines this season has been the play of sophomore Isabel Alvarez, who tied the school individual scoring record for 18 holes by hitting a 66 in the second round of the Susie Maxwell Berning Classic earlier this month.Along with the improved play of Alvarez, the women’s team must rely on the leadership of captains Elliot and Jill Reis and sound course management if they want to be successful. Elliot, whose scoring average dropped from 77 in 2006 to 74.5 in 2007, remains one of the most consistent members of the team. For her efforts, she currently sits in the running for first-team Big Ten honors.However, what’s done is done. This weekend is another opportunity, one she must capitalize on if she hopes to cement her reputation as one of the best golfers in the conference.Reis, who is a senior, is also looking to end the season with a memorable performance, for it will be her last. The Middleton native must strike the ball well and finish on the greens if she hopes to keep Wisconsin in the championship hunt.Although it is almost unforeseeable that they’ll win, Oehrlein says that they have to think that way.”I’m going to be disappointed if we don’t improve upon last year’s finish,” he said. “You’re out there to win golf tournaments.”Despite the tremendous odds stacked against them, the Badger golfers find ways to raise their games. And Oehrlein thinks they’ll be up to the challenge that lies before them.