Two of the Top Seeds Stumble, Nova Doesn't in First Round of NCAA Regional Tournament
LAKELAND – In their most recent encounter at the SSC Tournament, Florida Southern pushed top-ranked Nova Southeastern all the way to the end before the Sharks held on for the win. This time, the Moccasins have a little more work to do, and Rollins is the team providing the push. With all four counters shooting +1 or better, Nova ended day one of the NCAA Super Region 2 Tournament with a 4-stroke lead over #4 Rollins, with #2 Florida Southern in a tie for fourth place, but only three shots out of third.
Though Rollins had the top two golfers in the field with defending champion Joanna Coe and Fabia Rothenfluh sharing the individual lead, the next four all came from Nova. Coe and Rothenfluh each shot a one-under par 71, but they were followed closely by Sandra Changkija, who shot a 72, and Taylor Collins, Abbey Gittings and Fredrika Hakansson, a trio of Sharks who all had a 73. That added up to a team score of 291 for the Sharks, the best opening round in the South Region Tournament (Super Region 2) in the 10 years it’s been held.
In addition to the 71’s, the Tars also counted scores of 76 and 77, giving them a 295. That helped keep them within four strokes of the Sharks, who had 14 birdies among their four counters, and a tournament-high 16 overall. Hakansson, the Shark’s fifth golfer in the lineup, gave them a final boost on with three straight on 15, 16, and 17, turning what had been a 2-shot advantage to four.
Playing in the first groups to take the course, Florida Southern stayed right with Nova during the front nine, but the Moccasins begin to slip shortly thereafter. By the time all five golfers from both teams made the turn, the Sharks’ lead was only one; by the time the round ended, it was 18. Nova picked up six strokes on the par-four #13, and seven more on the par-four #18. The Moccasin counters were seven-over on the final hole of the day, the Tars were three over, and the Sharks broke even.
While Florida Southern, the #2 seed in the tournament, was well back of Nova Southeastern, the Moccasins (309) trailed third-place Saint Leo (306) by only three shots. The top three teams from the regional tournament will advance to the national tournament, and the Mocs will need to jump ahead of the Lions and hold off Carson-Newman, who they’re tied with, to claim one of those spots. They have two more rounds to do it.
Third-seeded Belmont Abbey (NC) was in even worse shape. The Crusaders were in eighth place after one round with a score of 318, putting them 10 strokes behind the coveted third position in the standings. The Crusaders were forced to count an 84 from 2-time Conference Carolinas Player-of-the-Year Michele Low.
M.J. Audette was Florida Southern’s team leader on Sunday with a four-over par 76, but she too was affected by the last hole, picking up a triple-bogey that dropped her to 11th at the end of the round. Prior to that, Audette had been among the leaders all day. Megan Kiley was also among them at +1 through 12 holes, but double-bogeys on 13 and 18 dropped her back as well, leaving her in a tie for 16th with Marianne Andersson at +5 (77).
Emily Flanigan and Silvie Dittertova both carded 79’s and were tied for 29th.
The shot of day, however, belonged to UNC-Pembroke’s Dana Watkins. All of the par-fives on the course at Eaglebrooke played very well on Sunday, but the freshman from Clayton, North Carolina made #5 look easy. Watkins holed it with a 3-iron from the edge of the rough from 197 yards out, dropping it in for a double eagle. Though 14 other golfers birdied that hole, and 16 birdied the par-five #10, no one else came close to duplicating Watkins’ feat.
The second round begins at 8:00 a.m., Monday morning at The Club at Eaglebrooke, with the final round on Tuesday, also at 8:00 a.m.