Spartans Ready for NCAA Championships
May 19, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State women's golf team heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma, this week for the 2014 NCAA Championships, which are set for Tuesday-Friday (May 20-23) at the par 70, 6,194-yard Tulsa Country Club. Michigan State qualified for the NCAA Championships by finishing in fifth place at the NCAA West Regional in Cle Elum, Washington (top-eight teams in each of the three NCAA Regionals earn bids to nationals). Live results from the entire tournament as well as live streaming on May 22-23 of holes 16, 17 and 18 can be found online at ncaa.com.
Michigan State is playing at the NCAA Championships for the third year in a row, tying a school record; MSU also reached nationals three straight years from 2000-02. Overall, the Spartans are making their 12th appearance in school history. The Spartans also qualified for the NCAA Championships in 1982, 1984, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2013. It also marks the 10th time MSU has made nationals under 17th-year head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll.
MSU's highest finish at the NCAA Championships arrived last season, when the Spartans tied for ninth place at the University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Georgia. MSU carded a four-round total of 1191 in 2013, which also was the lowest-team score in program history at nationals.
"It's very exciting," said Slobodnik-Stoll. "I think you can definitely see all the excitement in all of our players' smiles. The ones who have been there and know what to expect, and then with (freshmen) Gabby (Yurik) and Kelly (Grassel), just the smiles of what is going to happen and what it's like.
"We get a pretty good preview at the NCAA Tournament. It's a week-long tournament with six rounds (including two practice rounds), so it's a lengthy event, but we will definitely keep them busy doing other activities besides golf. We're always good at finding experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives. We're looking forward mostly to seeing Tulsa Country Club."
Michigan State will be starting seniors Allyssa Ferrell, Christine Meier and Liz Nagel, red-shirt freshman Gabby Yurik, and freshman Kelly Grassel in the NCAA Championships, which is the same lineup that was used in the NCAA West Regional. It marks the third time Ferrell, Meier and Nagel have been in the starting lineup for MSU at the NCAA Championships. All three currently rank in Michigan State's top 10 for career scoring average.
"It's so much fun," said Ferrell of playing at the NCAA Championships. "The whole atmosphere makes you feel very important, and it's very intense."
"I feel like at nationals the past two years we dug ourselves a hole the first and second rounds," remarked Nagel. "Last year, we made up the shots on the last day. Similar to regionals, we just want to get off to a good start. It's four rounds and it's a lot of golf. At the beginning, you just have to make sure you have that shot by shot mentality and staying in the moment. You just have to enjoy it."
"I think for them it's been there, done that," said Slobodnik-Stoll on the three seniors. "Not in a bad way, just that they're not going to be starry-eyed in the fact of looking around and seeing all the ropes or how official everything is. It feels like an LPGA Tournament. They're very used to that, which is great, because all three of them will be turning professional soon.
"But I also want Kelly and Gabby to enjoy the experience, and to look around, like those three seniors did three years ago, when we first made it with this group and understand what they accomplished. I think sometimes when you're in the moment and it's happening, it happens and we're all excited, but you don't really realize what we did as a team. I think having our picture taken (with the Big Ten trophies), or looking at the records of how many we've been to, how many Big Ten Championships we've won, how many teams that are ranked in the top 20 that didn't make it, then you really start to understand the type of program we've built at Michigan State."
Michigan State will tee off at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday at hole No. 1 for the first round of the NCAA Championships, along with Ohio State and Stanford. For Wednesday's second round, MSU will tee off from hole No. 10 at 12:50 p.m. EDT with the same two teams.
ABOUT THE SPARTANS
MSU has won two tournaments this season (Mary Fossum Invitational Sept. 15 in East Lansing, Michigan; Big Ten Championships April 28 in French Lick, Indiana). The Spartans also finished runner-up at the Lady Buckeye Invitational (April 19-20) in Columbus, Ohio, third at the Central District Challenge (Feb. 17-18) in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, and fifth at the NCAA West Regional (May 8-10) in Cle Elum, Washington. In addition, MSU went 3-0 to win the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic "Black" match play bracket April 6 in Athens, Georgia.
HEAD COACH Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll
MSU has won 33 tournaments during Slobodnik-Stoll's tenure, and over the last 17 years, her players have earned All-Big Ten honors 38 times, including 23 first-team selections. She was named the 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year, marking the third time in her career she was won the award (2001, 2007).
MODEL OF CONSISTENCY
In addition, since the inception of the conference championships in 1974, only Ohio State (15) has won more league titles than the Spartans (11). MSU won five consecutive Big Ten titles from 1974-78, and has also won conference crowns in 1982, 2001, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2014. In the Big Ten record books, MSU is credited with six Big Ten Championships, as the conference did not officially sanction women's sports until 1982.
Allyssa Ferrell LEADS MSU AT BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ferrell established a 54-hole school record after carding a 9-under 207 (71-67-69) at the Central District Invitational in February and shared medalist honors. In the second round of the CDI, she tied a school single-round record with a 5-under 67, including five birdies. She was also named the Big Ten Women's Co-Golfer of the Week for her efforts at Lakewood Ranch, Florida. In addition, Ferrell placed in the top 10 at the Fossum Invitational (sixth) and Bryan National Collegiate (tied for ninth) during the regular season.
At the Big Ten Championships, Ferrell made a 9-foot birdie putt on the last shot of the tournament to clinch a share of the conference title for the Spartans. She placed fifth overall with an 8-over 224 and was named to the Big Ten All-Championships Team for the second straight season.
Ferrell's 74.58 average currently ranks ninth lowest in an MSU single season. She ranks second on the team with 63 birdies (2.03 avg.) and third with six rounds of under-par. Her career average of 76.03 stands at sixth best in the history of the program.
Liz Nagel: FIRST-TEAM ALL-BIG TEN SELECTION
Nagel shot a career-low 3-under-par 213 (71-70-72) at the Central District Invitational in February, the eighth-lowest 54-hole score in program history, to tie for 10th place. She also tied for fifth at the Mason Rudolph Championship in Franklin, Tennessee, on Sept. 22, tied for fourth at the Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Oct. 27, and tied for ninth at the Big Ten Championships.
During match play at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic in Athens, Georgia, Nagel won all three of her matches to help lead MSU to a first-place finish in the "Black" bracket.
The DeWitt, Michigan, native leads the team with 67 birdies this season (2.16 avg.) and ranks tied for first with seven under-par rounds. Her career average of 75.74 currently ranks fourth lowest in school history. Nagel was a second-team all-league selection as a sophomore in 2012.
Nagel was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in November 2012 and had surgery in late December 2012. Last spring, although she was undergoing treatments, she only missed one tournament and remained in the starting lineup. Nagel used the phrase "Spartan Strong" to inspire herself and her teammates during her fight against cancer, which is now in remission.
Nagel shot a career-low 68 in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Central Regional to help lead the Spartans to the NCAA Championships. Her round of 68 tied for the third-lowest single round in MSU history. Overall, Nagel led MSU at the NCAA Central Regional with a 1-over 217, which tied for 11th place.
The two lowest rounds of Nagel's career have arrived in the clutch - in addition to her 68 in the 2013 NCAA Central Regional that helped propel the Spartans to the NCAA Championships, she carded a 69 in the third round of the 2012 NCAA East Regional to push MSU into a tie for sixth place and a trip to nationals. Nagel led MSU at this year's NCAA West Regional, tying for 14th place with an 8-over-par 224, including a 2-under 70 in the first round.
Christine Meier LOOKING TO FOLLOW UP RECORD-SETTING PERFORMANCE AT NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Meier has posted three top-20 finishes this season and tied for 18th at the Big Ten Championships. She tied a season-high 10th at the Central District Invitational with a career-low 3-under-par 213.
The Rochester Hills, Michigan, native, who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women's Open and has won two of the past three Michigan Women's Amateur titles, owns a 76.61 scoring average, which ranks 10th lowest in school history. She was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season as a junior after shooting a career-low 75.69 average.
Kelly Grassel MAKING THE MOST OF HER FRESHMAN SEASON
Grassel placed runner-up at the Lady Buckeye Invitational with a 3-over 219 and tied for seventh at the Big Ten Championships with a 226. She is tied for the team lead with seven under-par rounds and ranks third in birdies (58) and top-20 finishes (5).
YURIK FINISHING STRONG FOR MSU
Yurik tied for 10th at the Lady Buckeye Invitational in her first tournament of the spring, then followed that up with a career-best seventh-place showing at the Big Ten Championships, including a team-low score of 72 in the final round. Yurik led MSU in the second round of the NCAA West Regional with a 3-over 75. She owns a 76.57 average for the season.
FERRELL'S CLUTCH PUTT LEADS SPARTANS TO BIG TEN TITLE
Needing to sink a birdie putt on the last hole with Michigan State down one stroke, senior Allyssa Ferrell drained a 9-footer on the tournament's final shot to clinch a share of the Big Ten Championship for the Spartans.
"It was the best college golf finish that I've ever been a part of," said MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, who won her fifth Big Ten title. "In sports, those are the moments that you live for. There's never been a moment where I'm with a kid on the 18th green and they have to make a 9-foot putt to win the conference championship."
Michigan State entered the final round tied with Ohio State, and the two teams didn't get much separation from each other over the last 18 holes. Although MSU led by three strokes at the turn and the Buckeyes went up by two shots down the stretch, the teams remained deadlocked with the last group teeing off on the par 5, 470-yard No. 18. It would not only come down to the last hole, but the last shot.
Ohio State's Jessica Porvasnik, who claimed medalist honors, drilled a 22-foot birdie putt to give the Buckeyes a one-shot advantage, setting the stage for Ferrell's heroics.
"After Jessica made that 20-footer, Allyssa and I were reading the putt on the other side (of the green)," said Slobodnik-Stoll. "Allyssa turned to me and said, `We're still tied, right?' She knew she had to make it - and it went right in the middle. It was awesome. After the first long putt, the crowd was going crazy, but then Allyssa made it, and the Spartan fans went even crazier. For Allyssa to come through in that clutch moment, those are things you can't teach. She believed in herself."
The Spartans trailed the Buckeyes by one stroke heading into the final hole, but tied it after Liz Nagel recorded a birdie in the No. 3 group.
Four Spartans placed in the top 10, paced by Ferrell's fifth-place showing, which equaled her career-best finish at the conference championships. She also tied for fifth last season. Ferrell finished at 8-over-par with a 224 (74-75-75) and was named to the All-Championships Team for the second consecutive year.
In her third appearance in the starting lineup at the Big Ten Championships, Nagel tied for ninth place with an 11-over 227 (79-73-75), marking her best career finish at the tournament. Junior Lindsey McPherson, who made her Big Ten Championships debut, placed a career-high ninth by also carding a 227 (76-75-76). Senior Christine Meier tied for 18th with a 230 (76-77-77).
The Spartans and Buckeyes won the tournament by 10 shots over third-place Northwestern.
A LOOK BACK AT LAST YEAR'S RECORD-SETTING FINISH
The Spartans posted their best-ever finish at the NCAA Championships by tying for ninth place, surpassing their 12th-place finish in 2001. MSU did so by tallying a 72-hole total of 39-over-par 1191 (298-291-298-304) at the University of Georgia Golf Course, marking its lowest total at nationals by 10 shots.
Christine Meier led the way, tying for sixth place with a 1-over 289 (72-75-69-73), equaling the best finish by a Spartan at the NCAA Championships. Meier's 289 is the second-lowest score in program history at nationals and the fourth-lowest 72-hole total in the school record books.
"There was a lot of hugging and a lot of crying. It just feels great to set a goal that has never been reached in program history," said MSU head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, following the last round. "It was quite a while ago when we finished 12th. We've accomplished so many things as a program. There's a lot of Division I golf schools (263), and to finish ninth in the nation is just awesome. This is what we worked so hard for. We have a lot to be proud of at Michigan State."
The Spartans ended the third round in 12th place and remained outside of the top 10 until the final hole of the tournament. The Spartans closed their round in 11th but moved into a tie for ninth with Oklahoma and Tulane after the Sooners and Green Wave both closed at 2-over on the final hole (No. 9). Michigan State's fourth-round total of 304 was its highest of the tournament but still the ninth lowest of the day out of 24 teams.
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