ANN ARBOR - Thanks to an even-par performance from senior Heather Rose and a 2-over-par effort from junior Sara Brown, the No. 20 Michigan State women's golf team finds itself in seventh-place in the 21-team NCAA Central Regional after two rounds were completed at the University of Michigan Golf Course on Friday. The top eight teams at the regional qualify for the NCAA Championships at the LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., from May 22-25.
Michigan State is two strokes ahead of Arkansas and Arizona, who are tied for the eighth and final slot that automatically qualifies for the NCAA Championships. Southern California leads the tournament at 3-over-par with Texas Christian in second at 12-over-par. Indiana is third at 16-over par, Vanderbilt is 17-over, Tennessee is sixth at 18-over-par and Georgia is sixth at 20-over-par, two shots ahead of the Spartans. Kent State is five strokes behind the Spartans in 10th place.
"I think these are the moments of why you play sports," Michigan State head coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll said. "From a coaching perspective, it's going to show what our team is made of. It's interesting to see how close all these teams are shooting. I think we're only six strokes out of third. We're looking forward to the opportunity and hopefully, someone can step up and shoot a couple under-par. That would really boost us. We've had a good year and making it to nationals would be the cap."
Vanderbilt's Jacqui Concolino leads the individuals at the tournament, carding a 7-under-par 135 through the first two rounds. Michigan State's top individual is Rose (Chillicothe, Ohio/Chillicothe), who is tied for 17th with a 5-over-par 147.
Rose led the Spartans on Friday afternoon, as she started the round at 2-over-par on the first five holes before consecutive pars on the par-4 No. 6 and No. 7 to make the turn at even-par. Rose added a birdie on the par-3 No. 14, but a bogey on No. 15 forced her to finish at even-par and in a tie for 17th. She moved up the individual leaderboard 27 slots from the end of the first round to the end of the second.
Brown (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic) posted a 2-over-par 73 after an opening-round 78, moving her from 72nd place to a tie for 48th. The junior posted birdies on the par-4, 309-yard No. 6, the par-4, 390-yard No. 9 to go along with 12 pars during the round.
"It was important for her confidence and the team's confidence as well," Slobodnik-Stoll said of Brown's 73. "It's hard for an athlete who has an expectation level that is as high as hers. She hasn't played as well as she'd like to in the spring and we just have to make sure her confidence stays there. She just needs to know her ability is still the same."
Senior Rachel Meikle (Ft. Wayne, Ind./Carroll) finished with a 4-over-par 76 for the second straight day, as she is tied for 36th. Meikle had a wild round, posting six pars, eight bogeys and birdies on the par-4, 346-yard No. 2, No. 6, the par-3, 149-yard No. 8 and the par-4, 321-yard No. 13.
Sophomore Holly Niederkohr (Marysville, Ohio/Marysville) posted a 5-over-par 77 to move into a tie for 27th place entering the final day of the regional. Niederkohr posted a birdie on No. 6 to go along with 12 pars in the round. She finished tied for 44th at the Central Regionals as a freshman.
Senior Mandi McConnell (Grand Blanc, Mich./Grand Blanc) finished 7-over-par with a 78 to move into a tie for 27th with a two-day total of 148. McConnell mixed seven pars with birdies on No. 6 and No. 7.
The Spartans will look to reach the NCAA Championships for the eighth time in the 25 years of the championships during the final round of the NCAA Central Regional at the University of Michigan Golf Course, starting on Saturday at 8:10 a.m. Michigan State tees off at 9 a.m., playing in the same group as Arkansas and Arizona.
Live scoring from the NCAA Central Regional can be found on Golfstat.com.