STATE COLLEGE, Pa. â€“ In record-setting fashion, the Michigan State womenâ€™s golf team is heading to the NCAA Championships.
Needing a top-eight finish at the 24-team NCAA East Regional to reach nationals, the Spartans vaulted from 12th place to a tie for sixth in the third and final round after carding 5-under-par 283, tying for the second-best round in program history. MSU finished the 54-hole tournament with a 23-over 887 (300-304-283).
The Spartans got off to an incredible start with 15 birdies after nine holes and were 13-under at the turn.
â€œToday was a do-or-die situation, and we just started out like gangbusters,â€ said 15th-year head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, who will be making her eighth career appearance at the NCAA Championships. â€œIâ€™ve never in my career seen nine holes played by four players like that.
â€œI think it says a lot about our team. We were Big Ten Champions, but if you canâ€™t back it up and make it to the NCAA Championships, thatâ€™s not a good feeling. We knew we had to play good today.â€
On her reasoning for the teamâ€™s astounding start, Slobodnik-Stoll said, with a laugh, â€œWelcome to athletics. (Assistant coach) Lorne (Don) and I were like â€˜what did we do, what did we say? What happened? How do you bottle this?â€™ But thatâ€™s the greatest part about coaching and playing sports, moments like this today. Theyâ€™re driven kids, theyâ€™re motivated, and theyâ€™re competitive. When you get a group of players like that together, special things happen.â€
Leading the charge was senior Lindsey Solberg, who carded a school single-round record with a 5-under 67.
Solberg collected seven birdies, 10 pars and one double-bogey on Saturday and finished tied for third overall on the individual leaderboard with an even-par 216 (74-75-67), which equaled her career low.
The Verona, Wis., native started on hole No. 10 and compiled five birdies to shoot a 5-under 31 in her first nine holes. She closed her back nine with an even-par 36. Solbergâ€™s round of 67 also tied a Penn State Blue Course record.
Michigan Stateâ€™s previous single-round record of 68 was accomplished seven times, most recently by Caroline Powers in the Tar Heel Invitational in October.
â€œLindsey was just incredible â€“ weâ€™ve had a lot of very, very talented players at Michigan State, and none have been able to crack a 68,â€ Slobodnik-Stoll said. â€œFor her to do it in this situation, as a senior, was awesome. Sheâ€™s been playing great golf, she just didnâ€™t make her putts yesterday. She was feeling good about what she was doing. Putting has always been one of the strongest features in her game, and today it just came together for an amazing round of golf.â€
Solberg wasnâ€™t the only Spartan with success on Saturday.
Red-shirt sophomore Liz Nagel carded a career-low 69 (-3) and had six birdies, while junior Caroline Powers shot even-par 72.
â€œLiz has had an excellent spring,â€ Slobodnik-Stoll remarked. â€œShe was right there with Lindsey today and had a great round. The nice thing about Liz is that sheâ€™s capable of those numbers.â€
Powers tied for 14th with a 3-over 219 (74-73-72), while Nagel tied for 44th with a 7-over 223 (74-80-69).
Allyssa Ferrell rounded out the team scoring for MSU in the third round with a 3-over 75. For the tournament, Ferrell posted a 230 (78-77-75). Sophomore Christine Meier closed with a 239 (82-79-78).
South Carolina won the regional with a 9-over 873 (288-294-291). Texas A&M (878), Texas (878), Alabama (879), Florida (879), Arizona State (887) and Duke (887) also qualified for nationals.
The 2012 NCAA Womenâ€™s Golf Championships will be held May 23-26 at the Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn. Overall, it will be Michigan Stateâ€™s 10th team appearance at the NCAA Championships, and the first since 2009. The Spartans also qualified in 1982, 1984, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2007.
â€œI told them afterward, â€˜donâ€™t ever in your life, when youâ€™re playing golf or whatever youâ€™re doing, donâ€™t let anyone ever tell you that you canâ€™t believe in something and make it happen,â€ Slobodnik-Stoll said. â€œThe potential is there, and thatâ€™s what weâ€™ll be drawing on for the next week. You have to believe you can win.â€