Houston, Texas – The Transylvania women's golf team will make its second straight appearance in the NCAA National Championships next Tuesday through Friday, May 14-17 at the Division III Women's Golf National Championships at Bay Oaks Country Club.
After qualifying for their second national championship in program history last season, the Pioneers clinched their second straight NCAA Tournament bid and third overall, doing so last fall at the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Women's Golf Championships. By winning their second-consecutive conference championship, the Pioneers clinched another automatic berth to the national championships, becoming the earliest team in the country to secure a bid.
Approaching next week's national championships, the Pioneers harbor hopes of building upon last year's 15th-place finish, the highest team leaderboard placing for the program at the sport's pinnacle event.
After wrapping up the automatic bid early on in the 2018-19 campaign, the Pioneers have since set course for a series of tournaments in hopes of keeping fresh and honing their games for the time when it matters the most.
"The biggest challenge in getting everyone ready for the national championship was having a seven-month layover from winning the AQ at our conference championship," reflects fourth-year women's golf head coach Tyrus York. "Most teams in the field are arriving fresh off of a conference win so they are sharp competitively. We have been working hard to regain our edge that we had in the fall."
Though relatively young in their championship quest, the Pioneers return a slew of veterans who are now familiar with the national championship process. After fielding a team comprising five juniors and sophomores at the 2018 championships, York returns all five of those players again to the 2019 national championship, setting the tone for some unfinished business.
"The spring season started pretty rough but I've been impressed watching our girls fight through a tough academic semester in the classroom, all while slowly getting back to form on the golf course," says York. "Our last competitive round of the spring was our best and we are hoping we can continue to build from that."
Senior Meredith Moir looks to finish off her indelible collegiate career with a strong showing at the 2019 National Championships; the 2017 HCAC's Most Valuable Player, Moir has delivered a balanced and solid senior season with four top-5 finishes during the season. Moir won the Earlham College Fall Invitational and took fourth at the Pioneers' most recent event, the Transylvania Spring Invitational. At the Spring Invitational, Moir carded a 153, her second-best two-round score of the season.
Junior Rachel Fine storms into the 2019 National Championships with a 2018-19 season to behold. Fine teed off her year with a runner-up finish at the Lynn Schweizer Invitational, delivering a two-round 150. Her season-opening performance set a pathway for her medalist finish at the 2018 HCAC Conference Championships where she finished in first place with a 154. Fine has steadily rounded into form as the Pioneers embark for Houston.
Lexie Lamar is another Pioneer who has had a standout junior season. Lamar took third place at the Rhodes Classic in the fall and shot her best two-round score of the season in Transylvania's most recent tournament, the Spring Invitational.
Senior Jenna Soderling is the lone fourth-year Pioneer on the 2018-19 squad and offers a library of perspective as she enters her second national championship appearance. Soderling has had a strong spring, marked by her performance at the Bulldog Classic out west in Southern California in March. Out in Southern California, Soderling carded a 155, her best multi-round score of the year.
Junior Rebecca Fine rounds out the five-woman roster for the Pioneers at the 2019 National Championships as she returns for her second shot at a team title. Fine achieved All-HCAC honors with her sixth-place performance at the HCAC Championships and has been another steady performer with the Pioneers.
Transylvania will have its second look at Bay Oaks this season after competing at the course last fall as part of the D-III National Preview Tournament. At the preview, Transylvania took 12th place and the Pioneers got an early start on familiarizing themselves with the championship course. Moir stood out for the Pioneers with a 13th-place finish out of 101 individuals.
"Any time you get to play a course more than once in a competitive environment, you are learning and adapting your best strategy to play the course," adds York. "It was really wet there in the fall and it appears it will be wet again next week, so hopefully our girls will be prepared and know exactly what to expect."
The 2019 National Championships tee off on Tuesday for the first of three guaranteed rounds for the Pioneers and 25 other teams plus six individuals. Transylvania's five will tee off in the final hour of the first-round tee times, with Rebecca Fine slated to lead off at 1:55 p.m. Eastern Time and 12:55 p.m. local time. Transylvania's golfers on Tuesday will play in trios with student-athletes from Wisconsin-Whitewater and Aurora University.
After three rounds of play, a cutline will be established following the end of Thursday's third round, refining the number of teams to the top-15, a bar the Pioneers were able to clear last year for the first time.
"Throughout the season, we have completed rounds that are more than good enough to win a national championship," says York of Transylvania's 2019 championship hopes. ""If we can stay focused throughout the week, play our best golf, that's hopefully enough to get us into the mix to win the championship. Their mindset last year was to see what happens and hopefully make the cut."
And the main difference from this Transylvania squad's maiden voyage last year to this time around in 2019?
"This year we know we are good enough to win."
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