April 29, 2010

By Andrew Mitchell
Special to NCAA.com

Regionals Preview

Next week, 12 teams will earn the chance to play for the national title as the Regional tournaments will be held May 2-4 at four locations across the nation.  Each Regional will send the three top teams, and for some regions that means top-25, and even top-ten, teams will not qualify to compete for the ultimate prize May 12-15 at the National Champioships in Mesa, Ariz.  Here is the rundown of the information you need to know coming into these tournaments.

South Region: Defending Champs Top of Most Challenging Region

The South Region is arguably the most testing field of the four regions, consisting of nine top-25 ranked teams in the nine-team field and six top-ten teams.  Recently given back the ranking of No. 1 in the nation, defending National Champion Nova Southeastern University headlines this packed region and comes into Regionals on a tear, and will need to continue their high level of play to get through this Region.

The Sharks have won four of their five tournaments this spring, winning in those tournaments by an average of 13 strokes.  This includes a 21-stroke victory in the Sunshine State Conference Championships, a tournament that included four top-ten teams.

The Sharks have the player to watch going into the South Regionals in junior Sandra Changkija.  She has won 6 events this season and ranks fourth overall in the Golfstat Cup.  Changkija has placed in the top-ten in all but one event individually this season, and is on pace to earn a third straight Player of the Year honor.

Led by Division-II’s second highest ranked golfer in the Golfstat Cup, junior Joanna Coe, Rollins looks to start the march back to the championship in hopes of their sixth title in eight years coming in ranked second in the region.  The Tars are the favorite to slow the Sharks momentum, having finished in the top-three in every event this season, including defeating Nova Southeastern head-to-head at the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational this spring and once in the fall portion of the season.

A team to watch is No. 4 Florida Southern University, who made a strong showing at the Sunshine State Conference Championships finishing second, and prior to that placed third in the Morehead State Invitational, a tournament that included mostly Division-I teams.

The other top teams in the Regional include No. 6 Barry University, No. 7 Belmont Abbey College, No. 10 Newberry College, No. 14 Lynn University and No. 18 Carson Newman College.

No. 24 West Florida was the odd team out with nine ranked teams ahead of them in the Region, and missed the cut despite a solid season.

West Region: Tarleton State Poised to Win Third Straight Regional Title

The South Regional may include the most top-ten teams, but the West is also top to bottom top-25 nationally-ranked teams.  The Region is so overflowing with top ranked schools that No. 23 Nebraska University-Omaha was left out of the tournament entirely after winning their conference championship last week.
Headlining this Regional is No. 4 Tarleton State, who at times has looked like the most dominant team in the nation.  The TexAnns won the Regional preview tournament, that included most of the West Regional field, by 33 strokes at Grand Canyon Apr. 5 and 6.  Tarleton State took home the title in five of their six tournaments this spring, and the last three by double digits.

The player to watch in the West is TexAnn junior Carla Cooper, who is the only golfer besides Changkija and Coe to be ranked in the top-100 in the Golfstat Cup.  Cooper has notched a top-ten score in every event this season, including three tournament wins.  

No. 8 California State-Monterey Bay and No. 12 Grand Canyon are looming to take down the top-ranked TexAnns as each team also had very successful spring seasons.  The CSU-MB Otters rank second in the region, and have finished first in two of their last four events including a win at the Ashland Invitational March 10 and 11 against Tarleton State and the No. 2 team in the country, Grand Valley State.  

The GCU Lopes have finished second behind Tarleton State the last two tournaments, and made a strong showing finishing just ten strokes back of Tarleton State on the TexAnns’ home course, with junior Georgina Dunn besting Cooper for the individual title.

Other top teams in the field include No. 11 St. Edward’s, No. 13 Sonoma State and No. 15 Western Washington.

East Region: Lower Seeds with Momentum May Take Down Grand Valley State

No. 2 Grand Valley State, last year’s National Championship runner-up, is the top team in the East Regional.  The field may be weaker in a sense compared to the insane standards set by the South and the West Regionals, but make no mistake this tournament will be contested by some of the best teams in the country.

The Lakers won the East Regional by 42 strokes last season.  Grand Valley State has won or finished second in all of their tournaments this spring and have five total tournament wins this season.  The three wins this spring have come by at least 26 strokes, and the Lakers are riding the outstanding play of sophomore Sarah Hoffman.  

Hoffman had won three straight tournaments until finishing tied for second at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship Apr. 24 and 25, which the Lakers as a team won by 26 strokes over No. 16 Ashland.

No. 20 California (Pa.) is not the highest ranked opponent standing in the Lakers way of winning the Regional, but does have recent success against Grand Valley State winning the Ashland Invitational Apr. 16 and 17, their last tournament coming into the Regional.

No. 9 Indianapolis may only have one tournament win this spring after dominating the fall season with three wins, but the team is led by 2009 Individual National Champion junior Lyndsay McBride.  McBride has five top-ten finishes in the six events this spring, but no tournament titles.

The other notable teams include No. 16 Ashland and No. 21 Drury.

North Region: North Region a Wild Card Without the Presence of a Ranked Team

The North Region does not include a single top-25 team in the latest National Coaches’ poll released Apr. 26.  This tournament is completely wide open, and includes three division rivals from two conferences that will make this tournament fun to follow.

One seed Minnesota State-Mankato has been dominant head-to-head with the other top teams in this region.  The Mavericks, who have been one of the top teams on the cusp of the top-25 all season, won three tournaments this spring after getting off to a slow start with no wins in the fall.  This is Minnesota State’s third straight Regional appearance, and the team is looking to improve on a fourth place finish last year.

Right on the Mavs heels is Augustana College, who has finished higher than Minnesota State-Mankato in two of the last three tournaments, including winning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament on Apr. 25.  Freshman Emily Kvidera has one tournament title at the conference championships and two second-place finishes in her last three events.  

Concordia-St. Paul has been in the top-three behind Augustana and Minnesota State, but is coming off an impressive second-place finish in the NSIC championship.

Mesa State leads the three top teams from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference with six tournament wins on the season, but is ranked lower than Western New Mexico in the Regional seeding.  Montana State-Billings won the RMAC Conference Championships against Mesa State and the Yellowjackets are looking to qualify for their first National Championship in school history.