BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Texas Tech Red Raiders didn’t make Tuesday’s match-play semifinals for the 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship, losing their morning quarterfinal match to defending champion Duke. But they were spurred on by a group of devoted and familiar fans.
From 30,000 feet.
While the Texas Tech women were wrestling the Blue Devils, the Red Raiders’ men’s team was en route from Lubbock, Texas to Florida for the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship. The men’s tournament begins Friday at the same locale hosting the women, the Concession Golf Club, and Texas Tech men’s head coach Greg Sands wasn’t content to follow the women’s quarterfinal via statistics.
So, he and assistant coach Jeremy Alcorn sprung for the airline’s wi-fi access fee, supplying play-by-play for their players as they tracked the women’s match.
“It was a lot of fun to watch it on the plane and keep following the action,” Sands said once the men’s team had arrived in Orlando.“Our girls will be happy to hear that,” said women’s head coach JoJo Robertson when she heard mid-afternoon Tuesday. “We’re looking forward to getting home and watching them this week.”
Texas Tech is one of 10 Division I schools whose men’s and women’s teams qualified for the 2015 NCAA golf championships. Duke, Stanford, LSU, South Carolina, UCLA, UNLV, Southern California, Virginia and Washington are the other nine schools.
“That’s pretty special for us,” Robertson said. “Our men’s program has a good tradition going and it’s special for us to have made it alongside them.”
Tuesday’s quarterfinal loss didn’t dim the Texas Tech women’s accomplishment. They earned their ticket to Concession with a sixth-place finish in the San Antonio regional and were playing in the NCAA finals for only the second time in program history. That first trip came in 1996.
Ranked 27th as play began this past Friday, the Red Raiders finished the first round tied with UCLA for 22nd in the original 24-team field, but surged to ninth after a stellar second round.
Sunday’s third round cemented them at 12th, well within the 15-team cut for Monday’s final day of stroke play. Freshman Gabby Barker then led the jump into match play, carding a 3-under 69 on Monday to help the Red Raiders move up five spots in the standings, into a sixth-place tie with Tennessee. It was good enough to make the eight-team cut for Tuesday’s opening day of match play.
"Well, it’s something that our players have talked about all spring, making it to the match play,” Roberston said. “And they have gotten better each tournament that we’ve played and I think that the confidence has grown. Especially after a couple of good rounds out there, I think they’re realize they’re as good as anybody and it was so much fun just to see them have success and to make it as far as they did. We couldn’t have asked for a better week.”
In fact, Texas Tech tied fifth-ranked Arizona for the tournament’s third-lowest stroke-play round, carding a collective 6-over-par 294 during Saturday’s second round. Arizona’s 294 came during Sunday’s third round.
Robertson said her team’s NCAA performance wasn’t completely unforeseen.
“We did have great end of our season, finishing third in the Big 12 [tournament], something that a Tech team has done only one other time,” she said. “It’s pretty neat to watch these players have this success.”
While Duke faced Baylor and Stanford faced Southern California in Tuesday’s afternoon semifinal round, Robertson and her team enjoyed some beach time at nearby Siesta Key. They much preferred to be sweating through another round of match play, but sea and sand provided its own celebratory reward.
“I’m sure we would’ve tried to fit it in somewhere along the line,” Robertson said of the beach trip. “Certainly weren’t hoping to do it this early. It’s been so much fun here and I think it’s a good thing to let the girls experience some of this and enjoy it on our last day here.”
Meanwhile, the Texas Tech men were scheduled to play a practice round late Tuesday at Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Windermere, near Orlando, then attend Wednesday’s women’s championship match at Concession.
“We’re extremely proud of them for making it this far and they’ve been supportive of us all year,” Robertson said. “It’s been really fun for our team, and to be such good friends with the men’s team and be able to see them every day and be able to practice alongside them.”