Mocs Fall to Chico State in Match/Medal Play Semifinals, Finishes Tied for Third at NCAA Championships

Mocs Fall to Chico State in Match/Medal Play Semifinals, Finishes Tied for Third at NCAA Championships

DENVER - Florida Southern's run in the match/medal play portion of the 2016 NCAA Division II Championships came to an end in the semifinals following a 4-to-1 setback to No. 2 ranked and No. 2 seeded Chico State here Thursday afternoon at the Green Valley Ranch Golf Club. With the loss, the fifth-ranked Moccasins finish the season tied for third at the NCAA Championships. 

The Mocs, who opened Friday's match/medal play round with a 3-to-2 quarterfinals win over No. 6 seeded Cal Baptist, struggled in its semifinal match against the Wildcats as Chico State won three of four matches by five or more shots. 

Friday's quarterfinal win over Cal Baptist was the first time since the NCAA introduced the match/medal play round at the Division II National Championships in 2011 that the Moccasins had won a match. In 2013, the Mocs, who were the No. 1 seed in match play after winning the stroke play portion of the championships, fell in aggregate score tiebreaker to No. 8 seed Western Washington as both teams tied and then last season, the No. 8 seeded Mocs fell 3.5-1.5 to top-seed Lynn in the quarterfinal round. 

The Mocs only win against Chico State came at the No. 1 spot in the line-up as sophomore All-American John VanDerLaan (Southbury, Conn.) dominated Chico State's Kelley Sullivan as he won by eight strokes. VanDerLaan recorded a score of 1-under 71, while Sullivan finished with a 7-over 79. 

In 36 holes of golf on Friday, John VanDerLaan finished with a score of 6-under for the day as along with defeating Sullivan in the semifinals of the match/medal play round, he also picked up a six shot win in the quarterfinals over Cal Baptist's Chris Carew. In that match, VanDerLaan recorded a 5-under 67.

Against Sullivan, John VanDerLaan opening by firing a 1-under 35 on the front nine, before carding an even-par 36 on the back nine. After holding just a three shot lead after the 10th hole, VanDerLaan would win six of the next seven holes to push his score to 9-under after 17 holes. Sullivan would go on to win the 18th and final hole with a par after VanDerLaan recorded a bogey on the par-5 hole.

Freshman Christian Anderson (Ocala, Fla.), who was battling a sinus infection throughout Friday's action, had a chance at least tie his match with Chico State's Lee Gearhart, who was named a First-Team PING All-American on Thursday, but Anderson would play the final three holes at three-over to give Gearhart a three-shot victory. In his match against Gearhart, Anderson carded an even-par 36 on the front nine and then shot a 4-over 40 on the back nine, while Gearhart shot a 1-under 35 on the front nine and then shot a 2-over 38 on the back nine.

The next three matches belonged to the Wildcats, who will play for its first national championship since 1966 on Saturday against No. 3 ranked and No. 1 seeded Saint Leo, as they won those three matches by a combined 17 shots.

Sophomore All-American John Coultas (Valrico, Fla.) played his match against All-American Alistair Docherty, who like, Coultas is a finalist for the Division II Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award presented by Barbasol. On paper, it looked to be a match against two of the top golfers in Division II men's golf.

But the match-up became a one-sided affair as Docherty defeated Coultas by five shots as he shot a 2-under 70, while Coultas fired a 3-over 75 for the match. Coultas lost the match on the front nine as he played the front nine at 3-over par, while Docherty shot a 1-under par on the front nine. 

At the No. 5 spot, Justin Wiles came away with a five-shot win over freshman Michael VanDerLaan (Southbury, Conn). For his round, Michael VanDerLaan shot a 7-over 79, while Wiles finished with a 2-over 74 for the match. VanDerLaan opened the back nine by losing the first two holes to fall five shots behind Wiles. After VanDerLaan birdied the 12th hole to pull within four shots, he would play the final six holes at 2-over par, while Wiles played those same six holes at 1-under par to earn the five shot victory.

The Wildcats final win came at the No. 4 spot as Matt Hutchins posted a seven shot win over Moccasin sophomore All-American Jimmy Jones (Tampa, Fla.). For the match, Hutchins recorded a 1-under 71, while Jones fired a 6-over 78. Jones lost the match to Hutchins on the front nine as he played the front nine at 3-over 39, while Hutchins played those same holes at 1-under par 35. Jones would then close the match by playing the final four holes at 3-over par to give Hutchins his seven-shot advantage. 

Despite its disappointing loss to Chico State in the match/medal play semifinals, the Mocs closed out an outstanding season as they finished the year with a season scoring average of 294.51 as a team and took home the team title at the First Federal Southeastern Collegiate hosted by Valdosta State. In addition, the Mocs also finished third at the Sunshine State Conference Championship, Division II South/Southeast Super Regional and at the stroke play portion of the NCAA Division II Championships and qualified for the match/medal play round for the second straight season. 

In addition, the Mocs had two players, Coultas and Jones earn First-Team All-SSC and PING First-Team All-American honors, while John VanDerLaan earned Second-Team All-SSC accolades and PING All-South Region honors. Coultas was also named the SSC Men's Golfer of the Year and all three sophomore were named as semifinalists for the Division II Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award presented by Barbasol. The Mocs were also ranked fifth in the most recent Bushnell/Golfweek Division II Coaches' Poll.

Notes from Friday's match/medal play round
- Chico State entered the week as the nation's top-ranked team in the GolfStat ratings, while Saint Leo was second. The two flip-flopped in their seedings after 54 holes of play.
- Chico State is gunning for its second national title and first since 1966. St. Leo has never won a team national title in any sport; they could win two on Saturday with their men's tennis team playing Hawaii Pacific in Denver in their national final. The Lions' women's tennis team made the national semifinals, and their women's golf team is also competing in Denver.
- Saint Leo avenged its 4-1 semifinal loss to Lynn in last year's tournament. That was Saint Leo's first-ever team appearance at NCAA Championships. Chico State made the final eight a year ago but lost to eventual champion Nova Southeastern.
- Wilmington was making its first appearance in the team round and was the first representative from the East region. Cal Baptist was also making its first appearance at NCAA Championships.
- Florida Southern's win over Cal Baptist in the quarterfinals was the program's first win in the match/medal play format. 

NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championships – Team Quarterfinals
[1] St. Leo def. [8] Wilmington, 3-0-2
[4] Lynn def. [5] Barry, 3-2-0
[2] Chico State def. [7] West Florida, 3-2-0
[3] Florida Southern def. [6] Cal Baptist, 3-2-0

NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championships – Team Semifinals
[1] St. Leo def. [4] Lynn, 2-2-1 (St. Leo advances by total strokes, -1)
[2] Chico State def. [3] Florida Southern, 4-1-0

NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championships – Team Final
[1] St. Leo vs. [2] Chico State, Saturday, 11 a.m. Eastern