NORMAL, Ill — The Illinois State women’s golf team proved that three is not the magic number at the Weibring Golf Club Saturday, as the Redbirds over came the odds and recorded their fourth-consecutive State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship title Saturday, a first in the history of the conference.
Head coach Darby Sligh was named MVC Coach of the Year for the fourth-straight year, becoming the first coach in conference history to receive the honor four years in-a-row.
“You know, this award doesn’t have anything to do with me,” Sligh said. “It is an absolute honor to receive it, but it is a result of what these student-athletes do and it is all because of how incredible they performed.”
Saturday’s victory comes as Illinois State’s 11th team title, and the first time a host school has won the championship since Bradley in 1999. The weekend’s tournament was the first time a championship was limited to two rounds since 1996.
In defending its championship crown, ISU carded a two-round 597 (305-292), placing the `Birds 21 strokes ahead of second-place Wichita State, the largest winning margin in six years.
Brianna Cooper collected the Redbird’s 12th individual title, in school history and became the first freshman to win the MVC Championship since LPGA member and former Redbird Samantha Richdale won in 2003.
Cooper led Illinois State through the two-round, 36-hole tournament and took over in the second round, firing a two-under-par 70. She finished out the tournament with a two-round 144 (74-70). Cooper was also honored as the 2011 MVC Newcomer of the Year and named to the 2011 all-conference team.
“I think the level of motivation and the mentality that went into today’s performance by someone so young is incredible,” Sligh said. “It’s great to see that someone that wanted to succeed as much as Brianna did, go out and perform so well.”
Acting as the only returning member from the 2010 championship team, Terra Miller recorded a second-round, two-under-par 70, giving her a two-round 145 and sole possession of second place. Miller was honored as a 2011 all-conference team member, joining Cooper as the only two Redbirds to receive the award.
“Terra Miller’s level of execution as a senior was incredible today,” Sligh said. “Having a low-round score of 70 knocked it out of the park for us. She has been the glue that has held us together all season, and it has been a privilege to have been able to coach her for the past four years.”
In honor of her performance on and off the course, Katie Jean was awarded the MVC Elite-18 Award for her level of play and 4.0 grade-point-average.
Hannah Bachman carded a two-round 154 (78-76), and ended the championship tied for 11th place in the field of 50 golfers.
Jean (81-76) and Rachel Powers (78-79) were neck-and-neck at the conclusion of the tournament, as both Redbirds tied for 18th place with157′s.
“This was an incredible achievement for our team,” Sligh said. “As a coach, it is a surreal feeling to ask your student-athletes to do something and have them overcome the pressure and perform as well as they did today; it’s unheard of. Being a young team on their home golf course, hosting the conference championship is about the most pressure filled situation you can be put into, and to have them come out and accomplish what they did is unbelievable.”