Michigan State captures Big Ten title
Solberg shoots 75 to help lead Spartans to championship win
FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- No. 23 Michigan State won its second consecutive Big Ten championship and 10th in program history with a 10-stroke victory ahead of Purdue Sunday at the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort.
The Spartans entered the third round with a five-stroke lead against No. 19 Ohio State and extended their lead throughout the final day. Overall, MSU shot a 21-over 885 (298-292-295) in claiming back-to-back Big Ten titles for the first time since winning five in a row from 1974-78. Purdue took second with an 895 (310-294-291) and Ohio State placed third with an 898 (298-297-303).
"I'm just so proud of our team to repeat as Big Ten Champions," said MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, who won her fourth Big Ten title (2001, 2007, 2011, 2012). "It's something few teams have accomplished because you don't get that many chances. The adrenaline rush of winning last year set the team up all season to want to repeat. As a player and as a coach, once you taste success, you want to feel that same way again and again.
"We saw the course for the first time on Thursday, and everyone was contributing in the team meeting, helping each other out. It was great to see as a coach - they were sticking to what they told each other. We then went out and played consistent and stayed positive all weekend long, and we made birdies when we had the opportunities, which was very impressive. It was satisfying to see three great rounds from our team.
"It was an awesome feeling knowing we had won the title walking up to the 18th green, and seeing all the Spartan fans cheering for us. We had incredible support all weekend long."
The Spartans nearly took home medalist honors as well. Senior Lindsey Solberg was tied for first on the individual leaderboard with one hole to play, but double-bogeyed the par-4 18th to finish with a 2-over 218 (73-70-75), two strokes behind champion Laura Gonzalez of Purdue. Solberg did post her best career finish at the Big Ten Championships by tying for third and was named to the Big Ten All-Championship Team for the second consecutive year.
"Lindsey is a great player and great leader," said Slobodnik-Stoll. "She just played so well and gave one of the top performances of her career. She stayed motivated for her senior season and to walk away with another ring, along with our other senior Maddi (Massa), is really special."
Junior Caroline Powers also placed third with a 218 (72-73-73). Powers, who led MSU with a fourth-place showing on last season's title team, earned Big Ten All-Championship Team honors once again for her performance, which marked the ninth time in her career she has placed in the top five at a tournament and the 15th time in the top 10.
"Caroline had another great performance," said Slobodnik-Stoll. "It was great to see her record birdies on the 16th and 17th holes today - she was in contention until the very end."
Sophomore Allyssa Ferrell carded a 1-over 73 for the second consecutive day to finish in a tie for 14th. Ferrell closed with a 9-over 225 (79-73-73), marking the third-lowest 54-hole score of her career. It also was her fourth career top-20 finish.
Playing in her first career Big Ten Championships, red-shirt sophomore Liz Nagel placed in the top 20 for the third time in her last four tournaments this spring. Nagel, who had three birdies in her final round, finished in a tie for 18th after compiling a 12-over 228 (74-76-78).
Sophomore Christine Meier rounded out the team's scoring on Sunday with her best round of the tournament, a 2-over 74. Meier tied for 36th overall with a 235 (85-76-74).
"Christine and Allyssa came up huge again on the last day for the second straight year," Slobodnik-Stoll said. "They have a history now of doing that for us."
Freshman Jenny Sritragul shot a 251 (80-87-84) to tie for 67th.
Sunday's victory added to the winning tradition of the Spartan women's golf program. MSU won five consecutive Big Ten titles from 1974-78, and also won conference crowns in 1982, 2001, 2007 and 2011. In the Big Ten record books, MSU is credited with five Big Ten Championships, as the conference did not officially sanction women's sports until 1982. In addition, Michigan State has now placed in the top-three at the Big Ten Championships for nine consecutive years. Since the inception of the conference championships in 1974, only Ohio State (14) has won more league titles than the Spartans (10).
With the win, Michigan State automatic qualifies for its 14th consecutive trip to the NCAA Regionals. The Spartans will learn their postseason destination Monday night when the NCAA officially announces the tournament field.