ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Day 4 of the NCAA Division II national championship brought very little drama, but it set the stage for an epic clash Friday morning.
The last two national champions -- No. 1 Barry and No. 6 Nova Southeastern -- won their quarterfinal and semifinal matches Thursday afternoon and will meet in tomorrow’s title match.
“That is a great thing,” Sharks head coach Ryan Jamison said. “If you ask the guys on the team, they’d want Barry. Our guys are gamers. They will be up for it. I know Barry will be up for it. We are peaking at the right time and I am excited we have a chance to win a national championship.”
A little more than four hours after Nova Southeastern bounced eighth-seeded Indiana (Pa.) in the quarterfinals, it clinched a second championship match appearance in three years as three of its golfers held onto early leads and eliminated senior-laden No. 11 Malone.
Nova Southeastern’s Oscar Lengden, who tied for 11th place in the 54-hole stroke play tournament, bested Jay Hollified by two strokes with a 3-over par 74. The Sharks also got a five-stroke win from Ricardo Celia and a one-stroke victory out of Mitch Farrer.Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year Nate Tarter and senior Jon Clark were Malone’s two winners in the 3-2 loss.
Malone’s veteran group was understandably emotional following the end of its first-ever national championship appearance as a member of the NCAA. However, head coach Ken Hyland could not have been happier with the experience.
“We had a great year. We just wanted to have a chance in the match play, and we got there,” Hyland said. “My life has been NAIA, but I am very pleased with the NCAA. This is the best tournament I’ve been associated with.”
“This was a taste of something good, and I want it again.”
Defending national champion Barry fought off a late push by third-seeded Chico State late in the afternoon to secure a 3-2 win, and a second consecutive berth in the finals. The Buccaneers also defeated seventh-seeded Cal State Monterey Bay 3-2 in the morning round.
“It means a lot to the team,” Barry head coach Jimmy Stobs said. “They have had a great year so far, winning seven times. They have been ranked No. 1 throughout the year and to have a chance to defend that title is very special.
“It is hard enough to win one championship, but to win back to back is really something that would be spectacular.”
Grand Rapids, Michigan, native Jared Dalga, Berry Jole and top-ranked golfer Adam Svensson all secured victories against their Chico State counterparts to send Barry back into the championship match.
In the quarterfinals, which teed off at 7:30 a.m. ET, Malone and Chico State ran away with its respective matches.
The Pioneers routed fourth-seeded Central Missouri 4-1 to begin their day. Only one of their four victories came by less than five strokes. Tarter turned in the best 18-hole score of the quarterfinals -- a 2-under par 70 -- to best Cy Moritz by seven strokes. Clark won his match against Travis Mays by a team-high nine shots with a 4-over par 76.
Alex Springer was the only Mule to score a victory versus Malone. The true freshman tallied a 2-over par 73 to top Hollifield by 10 strokes.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats bested sixth-seeded Lynn 4-1 as well.
Justin Wiles and Alistair Docherty won their matches by six strokes apiece with a 1-over par 72 and 2-over par 73, respectively. Lee Gearhart nipped Martin Cancino by one shot with an even-par 71, while Will Flitcorft defeated Keith Greene by four with a 2-over par 73. Elliott Whitley picked up the Fighting Knights’ lone point with a 2-over par 73 for an eight-stroke win over Ricky Owaki.
Indiana (Pa.) had the best chance for an upset early in the day, but it came up just short in a 3-2 loss to Nova Southeastern.
Zack Kempa scored a two-shot win over Santiago Gomez and Kenneth Sames held on for a one-stroke victory against Lengden to give the Crimson Hawks two points. Hunter O’Mahony and Celia picked up wins of their own to even things up for the Sharks.
The deciding match turned out to be the second pairing between Indiana (Pa.)’s Jack Owen and Farrer -- Englishmen from neighboring counties.
With the match at all square, Owen lipped out a birdie put at the 15th and both missed birdie chances at the 16th. After a Farrer let another birdie opportunity get away on the 17th green, Owen sank a six-footer to save par and keep things even. A par by Farrer on No. 18 clinched the match and put Nova Southeastern into the semifinals.
The matchup of the second and seventh seeds pitted top-ranked Barry against second-ranked Cal State Monterey Bay. As expected, it came down to the final holes and the Buccaneers prevailed with a 3-2 win.
Brandon Hortt of Cal State Monterey Bay and Svensson won their matches in convincing fashion, but the other three were filled with tense moments.
The Otters’ Anton Rosen cut a three-stroke deficit to just one, before his rally ended at the 18th with a disappointing double bogey -- a result of finding the thickest rough on the golf course off the final tee.
Jole trailed Cal State Monterey Bay’s Carr Vernon by one stroke with five holes to play, but carded four straight pars and only one bogey to win by a single shot.
The national championship match will tee off at 9:00 a.m. ET on Friday.