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Women’s Golf: Irish keep postseason hopes alive

Fran Tolan | Tuesday, March 28, 2006

After the first three tournaments of the spring season, Notre Dame is far from attaining an NCAA regional bid.

But with one event remaining before the Big East Championship, the Irish still have a chance to reach the NCAA Central Regional competition. The top 21 teams in each region are admitted to the tournament. Golfstat.com ranks Notre Dame 15th in the Central region.

Before the season began, Irish head coach Debby King said one of her team’s long-term goals was to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. King said the goal is still very much within reach but the Irish have not played as well as the coach would have liked.

With poor performances in the Central District Classic February 19-21 and the ‘Mo’ Morial Tournament March 10-12, Notre Dame almost killed its chances for a post-season NCAA berth.

The team placed 11th in a field of 14 teams at the Central District in Parrish, Fla. Two weeks later at the ‘Mo’ Morial, Notre Dame finished last place in a field of 18. In both events, the Irish played many of their Central Region rivals.

“After the first two tournaments, we were obviously very disappointed with our overall play,” King said.

But last week in the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational in Honolulu, Notre Dame found redemption with a fourth-place finish against solid competition.

“I talked to the team before the tournament in Hawaii and told them that they had to play really well in order to have a thread of hope [for an NCAA appearance],” King said.

It was important for Notre Dame to beat UTEP and Kansas State and the golfers executed with an impressive 54-hole total of 906 – good enough to win those important head-to-head battles.

The Irish head to Virginia for the James Madison Invitational April 8 and 9 where they will compete in their final tournament before the Big East Championship. Neither of these two competitions will feature other teams from the Central Region and the squad will concentrate solely on maintaining a low scoring average.

“The tournament bids are determined based upon both scoring average and head-to head records, so we obviously still have something significant to play for,” King said.

The players also realize the importance of earning a spot in the NCAA Regional round.

“We’ve gone to the tournament the past two years so it would definitely be a letdown if we didn’t get in,” senior co-captain Katie Brophy said.

At the same time, Notre Dame understands how few teams make the tournament and how difficult it is to secure an invite. Unlike some the other major conferences, the Big East champion does not receive an automatic berth so the Irish have to rely on an at-large bid.

“[The NCAA tournament] is so prestigious so it would definitely be a huge honor to be chosen again,” Brophy said. “Hopefully, we can finish strong and get rewarded for it.”