CONOVER, N.C. -- While there were many tense moments, Lynn steamrolled through the first two rounds of match play to knock off both Florida Southern and Saint Leo and reach the finals of the 2015 NCAA Division II National Championship. The Fighting Knights will be making their third finals appearance since match play was instituted in 2011, tied for the most in Division II history with Nova Southeastern.Lynn faces NSU in the championship match at 9 a.m. Friday.
Match play pits two teams against each other head-to-head with the lowest total score between two golfers earning a point in a best-of-five point series. The Knights defeated the Moccasins 3-1-1 in the morning before taking down the fourth-seeded Lions 4-1-0 in the afternoon. Elliott Whitley and Keith Greene logged victories in each match and Jose Miranda went 1-0-1.
Lynn sent Whitley against Jason Huntingdon first, Martin Cancino vs. Jimmy Jones second, Greene against Levin Hoffman third, Miranda versus John VanDerLaan fourth and Mateo Gomez against John Coultas last.
Whitley had little trouble dispatching of his opponent after the Mocs golfer bogeyed and doubled his first two holes. Whitley shot even par for the first time in the tournament and won by eight strokes to pick up the first point.
Greene went back and forth with Hoffman throughout the front nine, trailing after the first hole, then leading by three strokes after six holes and then owning a one-shot lead at the turn. The senior used his experience and poise to pull away at the close, outscoring Hoffman by five strokes over the final three holes and seven overall.
The deciding match came down to Cancino. Trailing for much of the afternoon, the sophomore battled back and forth with Jones starting from the 13th hole. Cancino made up three strokes on No. 13 & 14 to go ahead before exchanging strokes over the next two holes. On the 18th green, Cancino converted on a birdie putt while Jones missed his eagle opportunity to secure the deciding point.
Miranda ended two-over par and tied with VanDerLaan while Gomez fell by three strokes to Coultas, earning FSC its lone point.
Following a small break, the Fighting Knights returned to the links to square-off against their second Sunshine State Conference opponent on the day. Lynn ran away at the third position, where Whitley posted his best round of the tournament, a four-under 67, to win by 12 strokes., and the fifth spot where Gomez topped Casey Bannon by seven shots 70-77.
Greene provided minor anxiety throughout the second 18 holes after leading by five shots after five holes only to bogey five of his next six holes. James Jessop cut the deficit to two but missed on several key putts to keep Greene ahead. Consecutive birdies on holes 15 and 16, though, dimmed Jessop's hopes and allowed Greene to secure the three stroke victory.
Miranda earned the deciding point against Saint Leo's Ryan Gendron. A three-shot lead with two holes to play diminished when Gendron sank a 45-foot birdie putt compared to Lynn's bogey. But Miranda outlasted Gendron when Saint Leo's top-player missed on a birdie putt, winning 73-74.
The Lions earned their only point as Joey Savioe defeated Cancino despite Cancino shooting a one-under par 70.
Lynn will be playing for its second men's golf national championship and 24th in school history.