Roundup: Women's golf advances to NCAAs
Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.
NORMAN, Okla. — The ninth-ranked Florida women's golf team advanced to the NCAA Championship for the third straight year Saturday after finishing in fourth place at the NCAA Central Regional.
The streak marks the first back-to-back-to-back appearance in the championship since the 2006 through 2008 seasons for UF and is the 23rd total appearance in the finals in school history. The fourth-place finish also matches the team's best finish in an NCAA Regional since 2008.
Along with Mia Piccio's career-low 69, sophomore Anna Young carded her best round of the year with a one-over (73) and helped the Gators finish with a total of 877 (+13), also its lowest total in a regional since the current format began in 1993.
Four out of the five Gator starters scored one-over or better in Saturday's final round, as Piccio was able to complete a round of 69 for the fifth time in her career and second of the week. The eighth-place finish is her second-highest finish of the year and is the first time she is the highest UF finisher in any tournament this season.
“I am happy for Mia and her play this week,” Florida coach Emily Bastel said. “She had one bad nine-hole stretch, but besides that, played great golf all weekend. It's a real positive for this team to have our senior step up at crunch time.
“The team, alone, did a great job of rebounding after yesterday's round. They hung tough all day today and never gave up. I'm proud of their toughness.”
Starting her day at one-over for the tournament, Piccio got right to work with two-straight birdies on the second and third holes to get back to red numbers for the weekend. Upon reaching the turn, the senior birdied the par five, 8th, but suffered her first bogey of the day on the ninth hole. Not letting the one drawback get her down, Piccio came right back to birdie the tenth hole and then the 13th hole to move to four-under the day and three-under for the tournament.
Unfortunately for her, Piccio had to write down one more bogey at the 17th, but still finished with a stellar 69 and keep herself in the top-ten. Piccio's final scores of 69-76-69 for a 214 (-2) left her in eighth place for her second under par tournament this year.
Duke claimed the team title with a 13-under (851) tournament total after going 12-under on the final day to beat second-place Oklahoma by six shots. Mississippi State, the only other SEC school in the field, finished in third place at eight-over (872), while also bringing home the individual champion, Ally McDonald, who finished the three-day tournament at 10-under (206) for a five-stroke victory over Alejandra Cangrejo of Duke.
The Gators will now have to wait a couple of weeks before traveling to Athens, Ga., to take part in the NCAA Championship. The four-round tournament is scheduled to run May 21-24 and be played at the UGA Golf Course. Last year, UF finished in 12th place, it's first top-15 finish since 2006.
Track & field: At Columbia, Mo., seven Florida Gators scored Saturday on the third day of the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships, led by sophomore Marquis Dendy who turned in a runner-up finish with an all-conditions personal best of 8.29m/27-2.50 (+2.3) in the men's long jump.
"It was a great competition in the men's long jump today and Marquis got beat by the better guy today,” Florida coach Mike Holloway said. “It's the furthest he's ever jumped outdoors and I'm very proud of him."
Dendy's mark goes down as third-best in the world this year, as LSU's Damar Forbes used a leap of 8.34m/27-4.50 (+2.3) on his final attempt to take the title with the best jump in the world in 2013.
Florida's hurdle corps was impressive Saturday, as senior Ugonna Ndu is looking to make her last SEC Outdoors her best one. Ndu, who already ran a PR in the 400 hurdles Friday, turned in a new personal best of 13.14 in the women's 100-meter hurdles to improve her standing at fifth all-time in the event at Florida.
Junior Eddie Lovett was the second overall qualifier and winner of the first heat of the men's 110-meter hurdles in 13.56, taking his heat by nearly half a second.
Three Gator men qualified in the 400 meters, led by sophomore Hugh Graham, Jr., who was the second qualifier overall in 46.42. Freshmen Arman Hall and Najee Glass also qualified for the finals in 46.89 and 47.07, finishing third and sixth overall, respectively.
A trio of UF women qualified for the 1,500 meters, led by junior Cory McGee who was the first overall qualifier in 4:22.00. Juniors Shelby Hayes and Agata Strausa were fourth and seventh overall in 4:23.09 and 4:23.74 to cement their spots in today's final.
Overall, the Gators have 15 total qualifiers for today's finals, eight on the women's side and seven on the men's.
Field events get things kicked off today for the Gators, as the 2012 SEC and NCAA Champion outdoors in the men's triple jump, Omar Craddock, will join Dendy, the 2013 SEC and NCAA Champion indoors in the men's long jump, to open the action in the pit at 2 p.m. ET. UF is second to Arkansas through seven of 21 events.
For the women, 2011 SEC women's javelin champion Fawn Miller will compete alongside freshman and current SEC leader Marija Vucenovic on the javelin runway at 2 p.m. ET to open today's events for the third-ranked UF women, who are in fourth through eight of 21 events behind leader