Monarchs hope to continue reign
Methodist has won 25 of the past 27 national championships
DESTIN, Fla. — It’s top-ranked Methodist and the rest of the field as the 2013 NCAA Division III Women’s Golf Championship opens Tuesday at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.
A total of 21 teams -- 11 via automatic conference bids and 10 at-large from conferences and remaining independent schools -- will play all four NCAA rounds at Sandestin’s Baytowne Golf Club. The final round is scheduled for Friday, and the reigning national champion Monarchs are, as usual, the favorites to hoist the trophy -- no other women’s team has won a Division III title since 1997.
“We are all excited to be part of the Methodist legacy,” fourth-year head coach Tom Inczauskis said. “Each player is aware of the current streak, but has taken each match during the year simply one at a time. We will need to be just as patient over the next four days of competition to make sure we are in the final pairing on Friday.”
A remarkable accomplishment becomes more significant against this: Methodist is targeting its 26th title in 28 years of national championship competition. It’s the longest active NCAA championship streak across all divisions.
Last year at the Zollner Golf Course in Angola, Ind., then-junior Jenny Sullivan clinched Methodist’s latest NCAA title match with a birdie on 18. The Monarchs beat DePauw by six strokes. By comparison, Inczauskis’ career record seems diminutive, though still impressive; he’s going for his fourth national title with the Monarchs.
“The field at the national championship is loaded with talented teams,” he said. “We will have to be very consistent as charges will come from many different teams this year.”
The Monarchs enter this week’s tournament with a 6-3 record, and with a 313 team scoring average, the lowest of Inczauskis’ four-year tenure. They also have experience at Baytowne, having played there in this past October’s Golfweek Division III Fall Preview. Methodist won that 14-team tournament, which included six other teams selected for this week’s national championship.
“We have a great deal of support between faculty, staff, administration, volunteers, alumni, family and friends,” Inczauskis said. “It takes a great deal of people to put on a national championship, and this year, it has a different feel with our support system so close.”
Statistical evidence may be overwhelming, but as teams tee off, everyone has 72 holes to make a statement. Behind Methodist in the latest national rankings are Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 2, Washington (Mo.) at third and DePauw at No. 4. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and George Fox are tied at No. 5.
“It is a great time for Division III golf with so many competitive squads and talented young ladies,” Inczauskis said. “I believe the spectators will be treated to some excellent shot-making and scoring this week.”
The Monarchs won their last time out, sweeping their own Methodist Spring Invitational with Cortland State, Randolph-Macon and Hollins in mid-April.
In individual competition, defending national champion Catherine Wagner, a senior at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, returns to defend her title. She is one of six players selected to compete for top medalist honors whose teams did not receive bids.
Methodist also has thrived in NCAA individual play, winning 15 DIII titles, the most recent being Paige Caldwell’s 2011 triumph. This year, Sullivan returns as a senior; Loretta Giovannettone was the top medalist in this past fall’s match at Baytowne. Teammates Andrea Daly, Kelsie Carralero and Taylor Dominguez also played in that tournament.
“Each one of our national championship players has a great story and these five players are tremendously motivated,” Inczauskis said. “They practice and play hard and are excellent students in the classroom. Each one has practiced for this moment and it is time to perform.”