The Forecaddie: Tiebreaker ends season for defending NCAA champions

Roberta Liti, courtesy of ASU Athletics ASU Athletics

The Forecaddie: Tiebreaker ends season for defending NCAA champions

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The Forecaddie: Tiebreaker ends season for defending NCAA champions

Arizona State’s NCAA title defense came to a sudden end Sunday evening at Karsten Creek.

The Sun Devils, triumphant a year ago at Rich Harvest Farms, found themselves in a four-way tie for 15th place after 54 holes of the NCAA Women’s Championship. Only 15 teams advance to the final round of stroke play, set for Monday, and much to The Forecaddie’s chagrin a scorecard tiebreaker is used to decide who moves on and who doesn’t.

In this case, it was Louisville posting the better cumulative non-counting score (20 over), and Arizona State – along with Auburn and Wake Forest – headed home.

The Forecaddie actually ran into the advancing Cardinals at dinner Sunday night. The Louisville coaches and players had gone to a movie after finishing up their third round. Before leaving the course, though, the Cardinals had gotten bad information from a tournament official, who said the tiebreaker was the non-counting score from Round 3 only.

So when Louisville ended up in a share for 15th, the Cardinals figured their season was over. They even started packing their bags before finding out the correct information.

For the Sun Devils, it was the end of a challenging season. Their top player, Linnea Strom, turned pro after the fall. Senior Sophia Zeeb badly sprained her left ankle this spring and fought through the injury because Arizona State only had five players left on the roster. Freshman Raquel Olmos battled a back injury.

“I’m really proud of this team,” Arizona State head coach Missy Farr-Kaye said. “People didn’t even think we’d get here.”

(For the record, The Man Out Front picked the Sun Devils to advance out of regionals.)

Farr-Kaye applauded her team for the way it played the last two days after shooting 26-over 314 in Friday’s opening round, a day in which three Arizona State players shot in the 80s. The Sun Devils improved by 17 shots Saturday and five more Sunday.

“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot the first day a little bit, but I love the fight and the resiliency; that’s really important to me as a coach,” Farr-Kaye said. “I would’ve loved to have been able to give our two seniors one more day, but they have so much to be proud of. … They’re national champions.”

Zeeb and fellow senior Roberta Liti may be leaving after four years in Tempe, but Farr-Kaye is bringing in quite the reinforcements. Incoming freshmen Alexandra Försterling and Alessandra Fanali will join the team next fall, as will Northern Arizona senior transfer Sofia Anokhina.

(Coincidentally, Försterling is from Zeeb’s native Germany, and Fanali is from Liti’s native Italy. In fact, rising senior Madison Kerley will be the team’s lone U.S.-born player.)

So when Farr-Kaye tells The Forecaddie that she “can’t wait to be back” at nationals, there’s a good chance the Sun Devils will be next season – and ready to contend for the program’s ninth NCAA title. Gwk

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