April 22, 2010

By Andrew Mitchell
Special to NCAA.com

Nova Southeastern Annihilates Sunshine State Conference Championships

No. 2 Nova Southeastern University played at a level as if the National Championship were on the line instead of a conference championship, destroying the much-anticipated Sunshine State Conference Championships by 21 strokes with a team score of 30-over-par (882) Apr. 18-20 on their home course.

“This was step one of three.  Our first goal was to win the conference championship, our next goal is to win Regionals and qualify for the National Championship,” head coach Kevin Marsh said.  “From there we want to get back and defend our title.”

Nova Southeastern was led yet again by junior Sandra Changkija, who notched her sixth tournament win in nine events this season with a score of 5-over-par (218).  Changkija was tied for fourth place going into the final round of the tournament after shooting one her highest rounds of the season with a 77 in the second round, but came out firing in the final round.  

Changkija took home individual honors by scoring the Championships’ only sub-par round of 69, passing her teammate senior Marcia Garcia Austt who finished second at 9-over.

“Sandra has been incredible all season.  She works harder than any other collegiate golfer I have ever seen.  She had high expectations going into this Championship, but she struggled in the second round,” Marsh said.  “I told a few people the morning of the final round that I guarantee you’re going to see a 69 out of her.  That’s just the way she does things.”

Using their home-course advantage, the Sharks shot all three rounds under 300 as a team and did not let up on the gas in the final round even though the team had a 16-stoke advantage, shooting a tournament-low 290.  Nova Southeastern had four golfers in the top-five in individual scoring and no individual finish lower than seventh place.

No. 1 Rollins College came out of the gates slow and fell behind the Sharks by 18 strokes in the first round.  Rollins only shot one round of sub-300 golf as a team, finishing third with a team score of 64-over (916).  Only junior Joanna Coe managed to shoot a top-ten individual score for the Tars, continuing her streak of finishing in the top-ten in every tournament this season.  

No. 4 Florida Southern University ended strong with scores of 299 and 295 in the second and third rounds, but finished a distant second at 51-over (903).  No. 7 Barry University notched a fourth place finish at 75-over, and No. 19 St. Leo University rounded out the top-five at 80-over.

Marsh said while his team’s performance was impressive and the way they played the Sharks could have won the SSC Championships on any course in the country, they are not getting too confident moving into the postseason.

“We are peaking at the most important part of the year and Conferences went well, but right after the trophy presentation we had some girls go straight to the practice green to work on their putting,” Marsh said.  “They are a team that is used to winning, but are also very competitive.  We have things to work on before Regionals.”

California-Pennsylvania Stuns Grand Valley State with Impressive First Round

No. 24 University of California-Pennsylvania had only one tournament win on the season as opposed to No. 2 and last year’s National Championship runner-up Grand Valley State University’s six tournament wins going into the Ashland Invitational Apr. 16 and 17.  

But the Vulcans looked more like the team that was on the doorstep of the title edging out the Lakers by 2 strokes with a team score of 68-over-par (644).

California-Pa. came out like a bullet, shooting the lowest round of any team in the tournament with a 315 in round one.  From there, the Vulcans maintained the lead and fended off a fast-charging Grand Valley State squad to secure their first tournament win of the spring season.

The Vulcans had two players finish in the four-way tie for bronze in the event, with junior Jenna Rothermel and freshman Maria Lopez both putting up scores of 17-over (161).  Five California-Pa. golfers finished in the top-ten for the Invitational.

The bright spot for Grand Valley State in the tournament was sophomore Sarah Hoffman winning her third consecutive individual title with a score of 13-over (157), barely edging out teammate senior Caitlin Bennett who finished with silver at 14-over.

Grand Valley State finished at 70-over (646) as a team in the event, and the Lakers have finished either first or second as a team in their last six events.  No. 16 and host Ashland University rounded out the top three, taking home the bronze in their tournament at 91-over-par.

Tarleton State Holds On for Third Staight Lone Star Conference Title

No. 5 Tarleton State University came into the Lone Star Conference Championships on a roll winning four of its last five events in dominant fashion, putting itself firmly in the discussion of who is the best team in the country.

But Tarleton State needed one of its lowest rounds of the season with a 289 in the final round to keep a narrow margin of victory over No. 25 West Texas A&M to lock up the team’s third straight Lone Star Conference title.  

The conference championship included five top-25 teams, and the TexAnns got off to an uncharacteristically slow start with a 321 in round one.  Tarleton State followed that up with the two of the three lowest rounds shot in the tournament to narrowly best West Texas A&M by four strokes.   The Lady Buffs was on top of the leaderboard after day one and lost the lead even though the team shot two sub-300 team scores in rounds two and three.

The TexAnns had two strong performances out of sophomore Katy Ward and junior Carla Cooper, who finished third and seventh, respectively.  Cooper shot the lowest individual round with a 68 on the last day to lock up a top-ten finish, and no Tarleton State golfer ended lower than 18th place.  

West Texas A&M was paced by senior Mollie Peterson who placed fourth and the team had three golfers finish in the top-ten, the most of any school in the field.  Sophomores Sara Coe and Hammerli Sriyai grabbed fifth and ninth place, respectively.

West Texas A&M will get another shot to best Tarleton State when they host the South Super Regional held May 2-4 in Amarillo, Texas.