No. 25 Spartan Women's Golf Looking for Three-Peat at Big Ten Championships
April 24, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The two-time defending Big Ten Champion Michigan State women's golf team is attempting to three-peat at this week's Big Ten Championships (April 26-28) in French Lick, Ind.
The Spartans, ranked 25th in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin ratings, won the 2011 title at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe, Ill., and repeated at last year's conference championships held at the Donald Ross Course in French Lick.
This year, the Big Ten Championships are back at the par 72, 6,121-yard Donald Ross Course as part of a three-year agreement with the conference. For the second year in a row, the format of the Big Ten Championships will be three rounds (54 holes) with the top-four players out of six counting toward the team score for each round; previously, the event was 72 holes.
MSU is looking to win three straight Big Ten titles for the first time since winning five in a row from 1974-78. Overall, the program has won 10 Big Ten Championships, second most in conference history, including four under head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll. In addition, Michigan State has finished in the top-three at the Big Ten Championships for the past nine years.
Last season, the Spartans defeated Purdue by 10 strokes to win back-to-back Big Ten titles. In 2011, the Spartans dethroned the Boilermakers, who had won three consecutive conference crowns, by five strokes in a dramatic rally that saw MSU come back from as many as five strokes down on the back nine of the final round.
Michigan State is attempting to become just the sixth team to win at least three straight Big Ten titles (MSU 1974-78; Ohio State 1979-81; Ohio State 1983-85; Ohio State 2002-05; Purdue 2008-2010).
"We're not going to focus on that," said Slobodnik-Stoll. "It's just like every tournament we go to - we want to be in a position to win. Obviously winning three in a row or winning one or winning five in a row, it doesn't really matter because you have to put the scores on the scoreboard and that's what's going to allow us to win. What we need to do to do that is just take it one shot at a time, enjoy the experience and have a good strategy and plan for the golf course. We obviously have good feelings about it but we have to keep our emotions and what's at stake in check."
Michigan State is coming off its first tournament win of the season, a seven-stroke victory over second-place and ninth-ranked Purdue in the Lady Buckeye Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. The 12-team field featured nine Big Ten teams. The Spartans carded a team score of 904 (308-298-298) on the Scarlet Course at OSU.
"I think the Lady Buckeye is great momentum for us," Slobodnik-Stoll said. "It's a wonderful golf course, a difficult golf course, and we played it very well. Lorne (Assistant Coach Lorne Don) and I were both just impressed that all six of our players the last day were in it, meaning any of them could have counted toward those four scores. That's really what you want; it's a coach's dream to have everyone with the opportunity to score."
Michigan State returns five starters from last year's Big Ten Championship team, including senior Caroline Powers, who is the highest ranked Big Ten player at No. 23 in the nation according to Golfweek.
Powers leads the Spartans with a 73.73 scoring average and has been named to the All-Big Ten Championships team the past two years; as a sophomore in 2011, she took fourth place, and as a junior in 2012, she tied for third.
A two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Powers owns a career scoring average of 74.28, which is on pace to become the lowest in school history (Laura Kueny, 74.60). She has placed in the top 10 in five of eight tournaments and has been named Big Ten Golfer of the Week three times this season alone.
"I think that we should be focusing on one day at a time," said Powers, who is looking to become MSU's first medalist at the Big Ten Championships since Rachel Meikle in 2007. "We definitely don't want to give up our title that we've really earned for the past two years. I know the end goal is definitely what we want and so right now it's `let's do it for a third time in a row', but once we get down there we really need to get down to business and focus on each day as it comes."
Junior Allyssa Ferrell will be making her third start at the Big Ten Championships this week. Ferrell ranks second on the team with a 75.77 scoring average and is coming off a career-best seventh-place finish at last weekend's Lady Buckeye Invitational. She tied for 29th at the Big Ten Championships as a freshman and improved to a 14th-place showing as a sophomore.
Junior Liz Nagel placed a career-best third at the Lady Buckeye Invitational with a 225 and enters the weekend with a 76.74 average, good for third on the team. Nagel tied for 18th in her first appearance at the Big Ten Championships last season.
Christine Meier is also making her third start at the Big Ten Championships. The junior from Rochester Hills, Mich., shot an even par 72 in the final round of the Big Ten Championships as a freshman to help propel the Spartans past the Boilermakers in 2011; she tied for 32nd overall. Meier tied for 36th as a sophomore in 2012. Meier, who is fourth on the team with a 76.82 average, tied for 18th at the Lady Buckeye Invitational.
Sophomore Jenny Sritragul saw action at the Big Ten Championships as a true freshman and is back in the starting lineup this season. Sritragul helped lead the Spartans to the Lady Buckeye Invitational title last weekend by tying for 18th place, marking her career-best finish at MSU. In eight tournaments, Sritragul owns a scoring average of 77.09.
Fellow sophomore Trisha Witherby will be making her debut at the Big Ten Championships. Witherby has started in five tournaments this season and has compiled a 77.73 average. Her final round of 75 at the Lady Buckeye Invitational was the second-best score of the day for MSU; she tied for 26th overall.
Slobodnik-Stoll, who is in her 16th season as head coach at MSU, has led the Spartans to 14 straight NCAA Regional appearances, (1999-2012), eight trips to the NCAA Championships, (2000-03, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012) and four Big Ten titles (2001, 2007, 2011, 2012). In addition, Michigan State has won 31 tournaments during that span, including four during the 2000-01 season and three in 1998-99, 2001-02, 2003-04, 2007-08 and 2009-10. Her success earned her Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 2001, 2007 and 2012, along with being named Midwest Region Coach of the Year in 1999.
Live scoring of the 2013 Big Ten Championships will be available on www.golfstat.com; a tape-delayed broadcast will air on BTN on Wednesday, May 8 at 6 p.m.
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