Stanford, CA -
For the third consecutive season the 13th-ranked Virginia women's golf team has qualified for the NCAA Championships. The Cavaliers finished fifth at the NCAA West Regional Championship at the Stanford Golf Course. Virginia junior Calle Nielson tied for medalist honors becoming the first player in the program's history to win a regional title.
Virginia shot 14-over 298 during Saturday's final round to finish the 54-hole tournament at 42-over 894. Arizona, ranked No. 7, took the team title at 24-over 876. Top-ranked UCLA was second at 885. Texas, ranked No. 32, finished strong to tie for third at 890 along with No. 6 Alabama. Stanford was sixth, one shot behind the Cavaliers. San Jose State was seventh (900) and Texas A&M grabbed the final qualifying spot to nationals by placing eighth (903).
The NCAA Championships are set for May 18-21 at The Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C.
"It is very exciting for our team," said head coach Kim Lewellen. "The regionals are very stressful because of the cut. You have to play very well, but you also have to play conservative at times because a big score can make the difference between advancing and going home because there are so many good teams in the field.
"Now we get to go play for the national championship on a course we know and on a course we have played well. At nationals you can give it your all. You don't have to hold back or be conservative. We are really looking forward to this."
Virginia will be making its fourth appearance at the NCAA Championships. The Cavaliers were eighth last season, 12th in 2008 and 13th in 2005. Nielson, an All-American last year, was sixth at the NCAA Championships.
Nielson used a final round of even-par 71 to move to the top of the leaderboard. She finished at 1-over 214 after carding a 72 Thursday and shooting 71 Friday. San Jose State's Madeleine Ziegert, who opened with a 67 before posting rounds of 74 and 73, shared medalist honors with Nielson.
"Calle was impressive," Lewellen said. "She has been playing really, really well all spring and it was just a matter of time for her to get a win in a tournament with a field this strong. She played great the last three days and they really set this course up to play tough today. The team needed her to play well out here and she did it."
The victory was the third in Nielson's career and the second in her last three tournaments. She placed first at the LSU Golf Classic in 2009 and won the Tri-Match at Ironwood with East Carolina and North Carolina in April. Nielson tied for second at the ACC Championships.
UVa freshman Brittany Altomare finished at 8-over 221 including a 76 in the final round. Classmate Nicole Agnello shot a 77 Saturday to complete the tournament at 229. Junior Joy Kim finished at 230 and redshirt freshman Lauren Greenlief shot 235.
For the third straight year, Kim produced another strong final round at a NCAA regional championship. In 2008 she posted five birdies over her final nine holes to help UVa to a fifth-place finish. Last year Kim finished her final round at the regional by posting birdies on her final three holes as the Cavaliers finished fourth. Saturday she carded three consecutive birdies on the back nine en route to shooting 3-over 74.
"That's why we call her ‘The Closer," Lewellen joked. "She always seems to come through when we need her."
Virginia is one of three teams from the ACC to advance to the NCAA Championships. Duke was fourth at the East Regional and Florida State was sixth at the Central Regional.
Teams qualifying from the East Regional include (final score): South Carolina (864), Tennessee (866), Auburn (868), Duke (868), Vanderbilt (871), Tulane (873), Pepperdine (877) and TCU (880).
Team qualifying from the Central Regional include (final score): USC (907), Arizona State (915), Purdue (931), New Mexico (936), Oklahoma State (937), Florida State (939), Oregon (939) and Kent State (940).