April 10, 2010

By Andrew Mitchell
Special to NCAA.com

Tarleton State Tears Through West Regional Preview Tournament

No. 5 Tarleton State University received one first-place vote in the latest Golf World/NGCA National Coaches' poll, and with its latest performance proved that lone coach may be right in assessing them as the best team in the country.

The TexAnns obliterated a field that included nine top-25 teams by 31 strokes with a team score of 16-over-par (592) at the Grand Canyon Invitational Apr. 5 and 6.

Tarleton State came out on fire on the first day of the tournament shooting 298, and was comfortably in the lead by 16 strokes. The TexAnns did not lift their foot off the gas in the final round, shooting the lowest round of the tournament with a 6-over 294 to claim their fifth tournament win of the season.

The tournament was a Division-II West Regional preview with ten of the top-12 teams in the region participating in the event, including four of the top ten teams in the nation.

Standout junior Carla Cooper led Tarleton State and like her team separated herself from the pack in the first round, shooting a 6-under-par 66 to take a ten-stroke lead after day one. Cooper shot the only under-par rounds of any golfer to take home her second consecutive individual title with a total score of 7-under-par (137). The mark was 11 strokes ahead of the silver medalist in the tournament, freshman teammate Jacueline Lau.

The TexAnns grabbed first, second and third individually in the Invitational, with junior Melanie Tham rounding out the top three at 8-over (152). Tarleton State had one other golfer post a top-ten score for the event with senior Andrea Lowe notching a tie for eighth place finish at 11-over.

Tournament host No. 17 Grand Canyon University captured silver as a team with a score of 47-over-par (623). The Lopes had two golfers finish in the top-ten individually, with junior Brittany Anderson finishing fourth in the tournament with a score of nine-over (153) and senior Jennifer Lutz tied for eighth.

No. 8 California State-Monterey Bay shot the lowest round of the tournament besides the two by Tarleton State with a 304 to jump ahead of two teams on the final day to take third place in the loaded tournament. The Otters were led by senior Cicilia Chudivan and sophomore Courtney Soekland, who ended tied for fifth place at ten-over (154).

No. 13 Sonoma State University finished with two solid rounds for another top-five performance at fourth place. The two other top-ten teams in the field No. 10 St. Edward's University and No. 9 Western Washington University finished fifth and ninth place, respectively. The second-place and the fifth-place finisher were separated by just nine strokes.

Western Washington Freshman Takes Lead Role

When you look at the top ten teams in the Division-II National Coaches' poll, a theme begins to develop. All the teams are led in every tournament by a senior, a junior or a sophomore who parlays their experience to help these top teams notch tournament wins. That is until you look at No. 9 Western Washington University.

Leading the way for the Vikings is freshman Claire Rachor, who is making her presence known in Division-II. With a tournament win, four top-three marks in the seven events Western Washington has participated in and only one finish outside the top-eleven, Rachor has established herself as the leader of the team.

"I have never seen it when realistically the whole team looks to [a freshman] for guidance on the course," Western Washington head coach Bo Stephan said. "I knew she had a lot of potential coming out of high school and I expected her to perform eventually in her career, but she came out the gates really playing well. It happened a lot faster than I expected."

Rachor shoots a round average (77) three strokes ahead of her closest teammate's average, and she is the only player on the team with more than two top-ten finishes. She did struggle in her last event; finishing 41st in the Grand Canyon Invitational against the tough, postseason-like competition of nine top-25 teams. Stephan said he believes this performance will serve as motivation for her as the team moves toward the Regionals and beyond.

"She has set the bar really high for herself and that will only help her improve because she knows how well she can perform," Stephan said. "She is moving into the biggest tournaments of her career and I think she will look to our more experienced players for how to handle it, but we do have a really young team. Youth can be a good thing because sometimes ignorance is bliss, and hopefully that can [in the postseason] be an advantage for us."

Nebraska-Omaha Finally Feels Spring Success

No. 20 Nebraska-Omaha got back to the play that made them worthy of a top-ten ranking earlier in the season, winning the Upper Iowa Spring Classic by 13 strokes with a score of 43-over-par (619) Apr. 2 and 3.

Nebraska-Omaha posted three top-ten scores individually, with senior Erin Ommen pacing the team and the entire field with a score of 8-over-par (152) to tie for gold medal honors with Truman State University junior Jennifer Lawson. No Mav finished outside the top-16 in the tournament.

Nebraska-Omaha started their spring season riding a three-tournament win streak from the fall and climbed as high as ninth in the National Coaches' poll. But after a fifth and sixth place finish in their first two spring events, the Mavs took an 11-spot freefall out of the top ten, but look with this performance to be back on track.

The field did not include any other current top-25 team, but did feature two teams that started the season in the rankings, host Upper Iowa University and Concordia-St. Paul University. The two schools finished sixth and fifth, respectively.