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Denise Maloof | | May 25, 2015

Fully engaged

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Arizona head coach Laura Ianello may be out to “here” with her second child, but an advanced pregnancy isn’t keeping this mom stuck on a golf cart.

Instead, she’s traipsing the course with her players as the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship enters its second phase at the Concession Golf Club.

“Pure adrenaline,” she said with a laugh.

That the fifth-ranked Wildcats have performed to par thus far helps stoke her energy source. Arizona ranked third after three rounds of stroke play on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, easily making the 15-team cut for Monday’s fourth round.

On Monday, the Wildcats shot a 12-over-par 300, finishing the final day of stroke play in fifth place with a four-round, 53-over-par total of 1,205, easily making the eight-team cut for Tuesday’s first round of match play. Tuesday’s matches set up the two finalists for Wednesday’s final match-play round, which will determine the national title.

“I’m pretty active,” Ianello said. “I wouldn’t say I’m fit. But when my team needs me I’m not going to like bail on them. And I feel like also you’ve got to be mentally tough on the golf course when you’re playing, so I can’t be a weak coach, not being tough. You want to set a good example. I don’t ever want to give them an excuse; ‘Oh, Coach is tired. I can be tired.’ ”

On Sunday, Ianello put her mantra in action, walking with senior Kendall Prince, who, her coach said, struggled with faintness and southwest Florida heat after not eating much lunch. So, player and head coach tromped through Prince’s round together.

“I said, ‘I’m fine. I feel healthy, I feel good. If I’m willing and able to walk with her, I’m going to do it,’ ” Ianello said.

There is a team golf cart, which she’s not hesitant to use. But equipped with a light backpack and shady visor, she’s been in the thick of her normal coaching routine during this NCAA championship, never mind her tummy.

Coaching while expecting has become normal for Ianello, who delivered hers and husband Jeff’s now-15-month-old daughter Natalie, in February 2014. With Natalie’s little sister imminent -- Mom has a Caesarian section scheduled for June -- Ianello already anticipates her latest post-maternity schedule.

“There’s no good time to have a baby but that’s okay,” she said with another laugh. “I’m going to have one anyway.”

Assistant coach Derek Radley will take the reins while Ianello’s on leave, although not for long. Ianello probably won’t take more than four weeks.

“I’m going to have to be back recruiting in the middle or end of July,” she said. “That’s just the way it goes. But that’s okay. We love what we do and that’s why we do it.”

In her fifth year as Arizona’s head coach, Ianello is an alum and former assistant coach who played for the Wildcats from 1998-2003. From Charleston, Illinois, she was part of one national champion (2000) and three Pac-10 titles as a player. She played professionally for five years before embarking on a coaching career. The Wildcats, who finished seventh in the 2014 NCAA Championship -- the highest since a fifth-place finish in 2010, Ianello’s last year as an assistant coach -- are making their 28th championship-round appearance.

Regardless of how Arizona fares in 2015, the littlest Ianello won’t be named in commemoration of it.

“Not ‘Braden,’ ” Ianello said, laughing again. “Or ‘Concession.’ ”

On Sunday evening, senior Manon Gidali’s family waited at the 18th green while Arizona players raced to finish their third round before sunset. Once the Wildcats were done, Gildali’s mom motioned Ianello aside and handed her a plastic grocery bag.

It wasn’t Florida lottery winnings; Gidali is from Paris. But it was nearly the same treat for Ianello.

“Every time she goes home to France or whenever they come to visit here, they always bring me these little chewy heart gummy candies that are just amazing,” Ianello, who doesn’t subscribe to prenatal diet paranoia.

“No,” she said. “I eat everything and anything. I drink Diet Coke. I’ve had sushi. I’m not one of those pregnant women who’s crazy. I do what I want.”

Which includes being on the Concession greens, fairways and cart paths, rather than coaching from a cart. Ianello and Prince even had an adventure as coach bolstered player on Sunday.

“I thought I saw a snake on No. 14 going down to the tee box,” Ianello said. “So I screamed and my player who was in front of me with her pull cart, she jumped out of the way and let her pull cart go down the hill, and her pull cart almost went in the water because I screamed. But then it was like a piece of grass. So that was kind of funny.”

Not every screaming, eight-months-pregnant woman and the people around would think so, but Ianello’s exuberance overshadows her billowy shirt.

“I think they just consider that I’m Coach Laura, and I’m doing my thing,” Ianello said of her players. “They’re not like, ‘Oh, Coach is pregnant.’ I think that literally I’m same old, same old. Or at least I feel like they don’t treat me differently or they don’t see me differently even though I look a lot different, obviously. My girls are great.”

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