Duke takes it easy in NCAA East Regional
Duke coach Dan Brooks described the NCAA East Regional as an “uncomfortable tournament.” But after his Blue Devils built an 11-stroke lead on Day 1, Brooks eased his way around Mission Inn’s El Campeon layout with a confident air.
Other coaches weren’t as fortunate.
While Duke ended up clobbering the field by 22 strokes May 8, Oklahoma State and Florida had to duke it out for the last spot to advance to the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship.
After 54 holes, the two teams were tied for eighth at 56-over 920. OSU, ranked No. 11 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings coming into regionals, and Florida (No. 13) had to wait almost five hours before returning to the first hole for a sudden-death playoff.
Oklahoma State’s Annie Thurman converted a 12-foot birdie putt on the opening 479-yard par 5, while Karin Sjodin, Mallory Underwood and Candy Herrera each made par to edge Florida by two strokes.
“To be able to come out of that experience and be on top with this young of a team, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Oklahoma State coach Amy Weeks, who has two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior on her squad.
For Florida, it marked the end of a hard-luck season. Heading into the fall, many considered the Gators one of the country’s top teams. But Aree and Naree Song turned professional, and freshman Mallory Code suffered an elbow injury that sidelined her for most of the season.
Top-ranked Duke posted the field’s lowest round all three days, shooting 286-292-291 for a 5-over 869 total to secure its fifth consecutive East Regional title. Individually, Liz Janangelo (final-round 69) and Brittany Lang (74) tied for third at 1-over 217 to lead Duke while Leigh Anne Hardin (75) finished tied for fifth.
UNLV advanced to the national championship for the first time in the program’s three-year history by finishing runner-up to the Blue Devils with three consecutive rounds of 297. The Rebels, who were the only team shipped in from the West, met 11 teams for the first time and knocked off four schools in the top 15.
North Carolina finished third thanks to the dynamic 1-2 punch of Meaghan Francella and Ashley Prange. The Tar Heel seniors claimed the top two spots in the individual race, with Francella carding three rounds under par to secure her first title of the season. Francella shot 69-71-69 to finish at 7-under 209, five strokes ahead of her teammate.
South Carolina’s Adrienne Gautreaux and East Carolina’s Adrienne Millican each shot 6-over 222 to advance as individuals.
Florida State, Wake Forest, Furman and Tennessee also advanced to the finals. The Lady Volunteers stopped a startling three-year drought with their seventh-place showing. Despite finishing previous seasons ranked 12th, eighth and 10th nationally, Tennessee had failed to qualify for the “Big Dance.”
“I kind of hoped nobody noticed we hadn’t been making it,” said Tennessee coach Judi Pavon.
“But I realized everyone was noticing. It’s a big relief for us.”