April 15, 2010

By Andrew Mitchell
Special to NCAA.com

The Real Championship Before the Championships

A championship tournament next week features three top-five teams, one other top-10 team and two more teams ranked in the top-20 nationally.

This tournament also features the two best individual Division-II golfers in the nation and the three schools that have combined for 11 out of the last 13 Division-II National Championships.

Must be referring to the National Championships or even a Regional Championship right? Not quite, this is simply the Sunshine State Conference Championships held at Nova Southeastern University's home course Apr. 18-20 that will officially kick off the 2010 Division-II postseason with a bang.

No. 1 Rollins College, No. 2 Nova Southeastern University and No. 4 Florida Southern University headline the tournament. But the field also includes No. 7 Barry University, No. 15 Lynn University and No. 19 St. Leo University. The winner of this tournament will go along way to make a statement not only in the South Region, but the country.

"If you look at it over the years a lot of teams that have done well in this conference championship have gone on to go to Nationals and won the National Championship," Nova Southeastern head coach Kevin Marsh said. "Having such a strong field of nationally ranked teams, it is our first chance to get things kick started for the postseason. Our conference championship is extremely competitive every year."

Each of the three top-five team's coaches, Marsh, Julie Garner from Rollins and Robbie Davis from Florida Southern did admit while this tournament is important, more emphasis will be placed on the South Regional tournament coming up in early May because of the automatic bid to Nationals at stake.

But they did say winning this tournament can go a long way to help your season, especially for a team like No. 4 Florida Southern who is looking up at the two top teams in the country.

"This can be [a statement] if you play well, and it is going to be a difficult being at Nova's home course. But if we go out and compete with them, it can be a really big boost to our team. It is a great tournament to win," Davis said.

With the conference being the most dominant in the Division-II producing so many championships, the teams will begin to journey toward the end goal of a National Championship starting the first day of the tournament.

"The winner of the National Championship every single year has come from this conference, so obviously if you do well in this championship it bodes well for after that," Garner said. "You hope your team is rounding into postseason form and starting to peak at this time of year."

Another Double-Digit Victory for Tarleton State Against Daunting Field

For the second week in a row, No. 5 Tarleton State University flexed its muscle against some of the top teams in the country, knocking off eight top-25 teams by ten strokes with a team score of 26-over-par (602) at their home spring event the Tarleton State Coca-Cola Classic on Apr. 12 and 13.

TexAnn junior Carla Cooper led their way once again for her team's sixth win of the season, shooting a 3-over (147) for the tournament. The score was good enough to place herself in a three-way tie for first in the event with Grand Canyon University junior Georgina Dunn and West Texas A&M sophomore Hammerli Sriyai.

In the playoff to decide the individual champion for the event, Cooper and Dunn tied and survived the first hole with a par while Sriyai was eliminated. Due to time constraints after the first playoff hole, a scorecard tiebreaker was called for. The tiebreaker was which golfer had the lowest score on the back nine for the event's final round, and Dunn's 36 gave her the title edging Cooper by two strokes.

The TexAnns had three players place in the top-10, with senior Andrea Lowe and sophomore Katy Ward tying for eighth place in the tournament at eight-over (152). Tarleton State only had one golfer finish outside the top-12 individually in the tournament.

Dunn led No. 17 Grand Canyon to a second-place finish in the event, but was the only Lope to finish inside the top-ten individually. Dunn shot the lowest round in the tournament in the first round with a two-under-par 70.

Northeastern State University, tied for No. 25 with West Texas A&M in the latest National Coaches' poll, finished ahead of six teams higher than itself in the rankings to grab third place, narrowly edged out by Grand Canyon by a stroke at 37-over (613).

The only top-10 team in the tournament beside Tarleton State, No. 9 Western Washington University, struggled against the fierce competition finishing seventh with a score of 55-over (631).

Grand Valley State Seizes Second Straight Win in Superior Fashion

The opponent's rankings may be close to No. 3 Grand Valley State University, but the scores have yet to reflect that in recent tournament memory.

The Lakers, who received one first-place vote in the Mar. 31 National Coaches' poll, yet again showed they are right on par with National Championship favorites Nova Southeastern University and Rollins College. The team devastated a field of six top-25 teams by 30 strokes at the Drury Lady Panther Shootout Apr. 10 and 11.

Grand Valley State shot 25-over-par (601) as a team for the event, shooting the two lowest rounds and the tournament's sole sub-300 round. It was the sixth tournament win for the team, and second straight tournament that the Lakers have won by at least 27 strokes.

Sophomore Sarah Hoffman highlighted a dominant performance by the team by taking home individual honors for the event with a score of 4-over (148), edging out junior teammate Allie Tyler who tied for second with a score of 5-over. The Lakers had three players finish in the top-four and no participant end lower than 12th place.

The University of Indianapolis, the other top-ten team participating in the tournament, finished fourth at 71-over (647) behind No. 16 Ashland University and No. 24 California University-Pennsylvania who grabbed second and third place, respectively.