Take a glimpse at the eight schools that qualified for the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship out of the Central Regional: Southern California, Duke, Pepperdine, Florida, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Kent State and Nebraska. The last should stick out like a sore thumb.
It doesn’t bother Nebraska when people assume the Huskers are simply happy to be going to the NCAA Championship May 23-26 at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio. They know their limits. They know defeating heavyweights Duke and UCLA is unlikely. They know a national championship is an improbable goal. They’re realistic.
“The top schools expect to be there every year,” Nebraska coach Robin Krapfl said. “We may not be able to do it every year, but when everything comes together, the opportunity can present itself.”
It was Michigan State that presented Nebraska the gift May 13 at the demanding Traditions Club. Midway through Round 3 the Huskers were feeling comfortable, but mistakes piled up on the final nine holes. After the round, the team could only sit and wait for the final results. It appeared the Huskers would be out of luck, but Michigan State played the final four holes 13 over par and dropped to ninth, handing the eighth and final position to the Huskers by five shots. This will be Nebraska’s third trip to the NCAA Championship, following appearances in 2000 and 2003.
“They played with confidence and, up until the end, they believed they deserved to go to nationals,” Krapfl said. “Then, all of a sudden, they got nervous and started guiding the ball. But they did what they had to do, and we’re happy to be moving on.”
Meanwhile, there was heated action at the top of the leaderboard. USC led after the first round, relinquished the lead to Duke after the second and shot a tournament-best 286 the final day to win with a 19-over-par 883 total. USC advances to the school’s ninth consecutive NCAA Championship. The top-ranked Blue Devils finished two shots behind USC, making it two consecutive years they haven’t won a regional.
USC also claimed individual honors, with senior Irene Cho shooting a final-round 69 for a 2-under 214 total and a four-shot victory. Duke freshman Amanda Blumenherst was second at 218 and Duke senior Liz Janangelo third at 221.
“Words can’t describe how excited I am,” said Cho, who collected her fourth victory this spring. “We’ve worked so hard this year and I’m glad it paid off. Hopefully we can do the same thing at nationals.”
Nebraska isn’t expecting to contend. The Huskers entered regionals ranked 43rd by Golfweek. They’re pleased to be going to the NCAA Championship and delighted to admit it.
“Nineteenth is our best finish (at NCAAs), it’d be nice to improve upon that,” Krapfl said. “If you finish in the top 15, you get invited to the (Fall) Preview.
“Trust me, there are things to play for.”