Final Four Holes Make the Difference as Moccasins Close the Gap on Nova
LOUISVILLE – The Moccasins began round three of the Division II National Finals knowing they needed to step up their game in order to close the gap between themselves and front-running Nova Southeastern. They did just that, turning in their best round of the tournament to pull within nine strokes of the Sharks going into Saturday’s final round of play.
The way Florida Southern made up part of the difference has to be encouraging for head coach Robbie Davis, who has the Mocs in position for their best finish since 2007. With a 19-stroke lead over third-place Grand Canyon, the Mocs will almost certainly place first or second for the ninth time in the last 14 years, and based on the way they finished Friday’s third round, a national title is still within their grasp.
The Moccasins were 15 strokes behind the Sharks when play began, but trimmed the deficit to 12 in the early stages Friday. The Sharks eventually went up by as many as 17 strokes, but once again the Mocs fought back, and over the final four holes cut eight strokes off the Sharks’ lead. They have 18 holes remaining to work on the final nine.
M.J. Audette led the Mocs with a 2-over par 74, matching her score from the first round and keeping her in a tie for third place in the individual standings. The senior is at +12 for the tournament with a 3-round total of 228, and is one of four golfers with that score. Nova Southeastern’s Daniela Ortiz (224) and Abbey Gittings (225) are still ahead of her, but with Ortiz shooting a 79 on Friday, Audette is now only four strokes from the lead and will be playing in the same group with Ortiz on Saturday.
The Mocs’ biggest improvement came from Amy Hodgkinson, who shot a 79 on Friday after rounds of 85 and 84. That meant all of Florida Southern’s counters scored in the 70’s, something no other team in the tournament has done on what’s proved to be a very difficult Persimmon Ridge course.
Florida Southern also got a pair of 78’s from Barbora Vejlupkova and Megan Kiley, giving the Moccasins a team score of 309. Vejlupkova's score was good enough to keep her in the top-10, where she's tied for 10th with a 3-day total of 233. Jackie Rajek was the Mocs' fifth golfer on Friday with an 82 and is tied for 17th with a total of 238.
Nova Southeastern had a 315, with its best score coming from Lilliana Cammisa, who shot a 76. The back nine caused the Sharks some problems though, as they saw what had been a 17-stroke lead at one point Friday whittled down to nine by the end of the day. Florida Southern made up that deficit on the final four holes, where the Sharks were +7, and the Mocs were -1. Audette, who was the Mocs’ final golfer on the course, birdied 15 (par-five) and 16 (par-four), Kiley also birdied 16, and Vejlupkova did the same on the par-four #17. Nova had just one birdie over the same stretch, and also had two double bogeys.
As well as Florida Southern played, the 309 wasn’t the best score of the day. Grand Canyon had a 305 that was the best round so far in the tournament, but the Antelopes were too far behind before the day began for it to really threaten Florida Southern. It did jump them from fifth place to third, making the Antelopes the third different team to hold that spot during the tournament. Central Oklahoma finished round one in third place and California (PA) was there after round two.
Barry moved into fourth place on Friday, and is 32 strokes behind Nova, 23 behind Florida Southern and four behind Grand Canyon. Grand Valley State is fifth, just one stroke behind the Buccaneers. If Barry can overtake Grand Canyon on Saturday, it would mark the third year in a row Sunshine State Conference schools have finished 1-2-3 in the standings.
The final round gets underway at 8:30 Saturday morning. Florida Southern, Nova and Grand Canyon tee off between 9:40 and 10:20.