April 29, 2010

Notebook: No Trouble In Bridewater As Eagles Take ODAC Title

By Grant Lucas
Special to NCAA.com

Leopards leap over Bulldogs

For the fourth consecutive season, the No. 13 University of La Verne Leopards claimed the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title with a two-stroke victory over the No. 9 University of Redlands Bulldogs in Murietta, Calif., on April 26.

Heading into the final SCIAC tournament, the Leopards trailed the Bulldogs by one point in the conference standings, but an overall 586 in Murietta propelled La Verne to a nail-biting championship win.

About two weeks before SCIAC #5, head coach Eric Riehle held a meeting with his team.

"I reminded them that we had 22 days until the conference finals," he said. "In that time, we would have two events that would dictate the outcome of our season. I asked them not to think about the two days of competition, but rather the 20 days of practice. I assured them that if they gave their full effort during those 20 days, the competitions would work out the way they wanted."

Senior Mitch Fedorka and junior Eric Bunge led the Leopard attack, finishing in third and fourth place, respectively, and earning First Team All-SCIAC honors.

"Mitch and Eric have been models for consistency the entire year," Riehl said. "They lead on the golf course and in practice and provide great assistance in elevating the play of the rest of the team."

La Verne led from wire-to-wire, opening up the event with a tournament-low 289, behind Fedorka's blistering 69.

The Leopards then held off a second-round rally by the Bulldogs, carding a 297 to edge Redlands by two shots.

With the win, the Leopards earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships in Hershey, Pa., on May 11.

Riehl said that the Leopards' work ethic to improve themselves shows him they are working in the right direction. But, another factor gives Riehl confidence.

"Having won four consecutive conference championships and finishing second in the last three years at nationals gives our team the know-how to go out and compete," he said.

Centre, Southwestern record first-ever tie

In the 19-year history of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, nothing like this has ever been done: Two programs were crowned conference champions.

Both No. 25 Centre College and No. 17 Southwestern University finished atop the leaderboard championship honors, but a tiereaker gave Centre the automatic bid into the D-III championships.

Still, the Colonels and Pirates claimed their first SCAC men's golf titles in their respective schools' histories.

"We knew we had a 'horse' in [junior] Chris Morris, who was going to shoot close to par," head coach Brian Chafin said. "The rest of the team needed to stay in the mid- to high-70s."

Setting the early tone for Centre was Morris, who posted a first-round best 73. Morris continued to dominate the field in the final rounds, carding a 71 and 72 on the second and third day, respectively, and winning the individual title. Because of his outstanding performance, Morris was named the SCAC Player of the Year.

The Colonels couldn't maintain a hold on their six-shot lead in the final round, as the Pirates stormed back with a 305 to even the score. Senior Rick Jones was the rally frontrunner, tallying a tournament-low 70.

To decide the overall winner, officials compared each team's fifth score of every round, eventually giving Centre the championship berth.

The guaranteed entry into the D-III Championships in Hershey, Pa., on May 11 will only be the Colonels' second appearance in program history.

"We've come from last to first," Chafin said. "Six years ago, we were dead last (or close to it). With hard work and better players, we made a big move."

Upset-minded NYU wins UAA

A hot-shooting and consistent New York University team claimed its first University Athletic Association championship after carding a 613 to upset No. 14 Emory University in Rochester, NY, on April 26.

Three Violet golfers sat in third place following plus-4 76 outings in the first round, as NYU held an eight-stroke lead over Emory.

The Eagles came out firing on the final day, improving their overall score by 15 shots to put pressure on the young Violets squad. But NYU, behind senior Mike Liebfried's 71, posted a 306 - one stroke better than the opening round - to win the title.

Liebfried led Emory sophomore Ryan Dagerman by three shots heading into the 18th hole, but a double-bogey allowed Dagerman to birdie, tying Lieberman for first place. Dagerman eventually won the individual crown on the third playoff hole.

NYU nearly swept conference honors, as Todd Kolean won Coach of the Year and freshman Gabe Durkin took Rookie of the Year as well as being named First Team All-UAA alongside Liebfried.

The Violets will head to Hershey for the D-III Championships on May 11.