LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The unlikely team of three freshmen and two sophomores that has willed the New Mexico State women’s golf team to the NCAA postseason begins play at the 2014 NCAA West Regional in Cle Elum, Wash., on Thursday, May 8.
The three-round regional tournament, which is being hosted by the University of Washington, runs through Saturday, May 10, at the par-72, 6,252-yard Tumble Creek Club at Suncadia Resort.
Aggie head coach Jackie Booth will carry the same team that won back-to-back tournaments to close out the season, including the Western Athletic Conference Championship, to Washington.
In fact, freshmen Valeria Macias, Kristen Cline and Camille Orito, along with sophomores Kacey Dalpes and Viviana Macias, played in NM State’s final three tournaments of the season, which turned out to be the Aggies’ most productive tournaments of the year.
It started with a tie for sixth place finish at the Mountain View Collegiate in March, a tournament in which NM State shot its best round of the season during round three, a 3-over 291, and finished with its low total score of the season to that point, a 24-over 888.
It did not take long to eclipse the low team score as the Aggies finished with a total score of 23-over-par 887 just 10 days later en route to winning the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic, NM State’s first win in over three years and its first win outside of Las Cruces in over a decade. It would be a final-round score of 6-over 294, the second-best round of the season, that would bring the Aggies to the front.
Orito shot two rounds under par during the Cowgirl Classic to finish in a three-way tie for first place. The Macias sisters would also finish in the top 10.
With momentum on its side and the team starting to gel, NM State headed to the WAC Championship, but after two rounds at the conference tournament the Aggies saw themselves four shots back of favorite Idaho with 18 holes to play. But as in the previous two tournaments, the Aggies did something that a young team is not supposed to do, play its best during crunch time, when tournaments are won or lost.
After carding its two best rounds of the season during the final rounds of the previous two tournaments, and after shooting a 21-over and 28-over during rounds one and two respectively, NM State shot a 7-over 295 during round three of the WAC Championship, tied for the third-best round of the season.
The Aggies outshot Idaho by 10 strokes during the final round to turn a four-stroke deficit into a six-stroke WAC title, the program’s first-ever WAC championship and its first conference title in 11 years, en route to an automatic bid into the NCAA regional round. All five NM State golfers finished in the top 15 of the final WAC individual leaderboard.
At the conclusion of the conference tournament, Viviana Macias and Dalpes were honored as All-WAC first team members while Orito was an All-WAC second team selection and was also honored as the WAC Freshman of the Year. Booth, meanwhile, earned the WAC Coach of the Year.
With the exception of Cline, who has only played in four tournaments, all Aggie golfers competing at the West Regional have at least one top-5 finish this season and all have at least one round under par. Cline, meanwhile, only played at NM State’s home tournament in the fall before participating in and becoming an integral part of the Aggies’ season-ending run. She had her best finish of the season at the WAC Championship, a tie for 14th finish, and has seven rounds of 4-over or better on the season.
NM State last made an NCAA regional in 2011 when the team also traveled to the state of Washington. The Aggies, who were led by Booth and Paul Brilliant as co-head coaches, finished in a tie for 21st in the 24-team field.
The Aggies had a run of 13 regionals in 14 years from 1993-2006, including 12-consecutive seasons qualifying for the regional round (1993-2004). Booth coached NM State during the first five of those qualifying seasons during her first stint as Aggie head coach.
The Aggies’ best finish at a regional came under Booth in 1997 when NM State finished in fourth place out of 20 teams and advanced to the NCAA Championship. The Aggies have advanced to the NCAA Championship a total of six times.
NM State has also had two individuals qualify for the regional round in the past seven years as Lehua Wise qualified in 2007 and Demi Mak in 2012.
There are a total of 24 teams competing at the NCAA West Regional. NM State is the No. 22 seed, right behind I-25 rival New Mexico which is the No. 21 seed. The No. 1 team in the country and defending national champion, Southern California, is the top seed in the region. There are two other 24-team regionals being held, the East and Central Regions.
The top eight teams and top two individuals on a non-qualifying team from each region will move on to the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship being held May 20-23 at the Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
The NCAA will make live scoring available at golfstat.com. To follow the action live please follow the link provided.
PARTICIPANTS AND SEEDS AT WEST REGIONAL (CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS IN PARANTHESES)
1. University of Southern California
2. Arizona State University
3. University of Oklahoma (Big 12 Conference)
4. University of Washington
5. Clemson University
6. Wake Forest University
7. Northwestern University
8. Michigan State University (Big Ten Conference)
9. Iowa State University
10. Georgia Regents University Augusta
11. University of Oregon
12. Texas A&M University, College Station
13. University of California, Davis (Big West Conference)
14. University of Denver (The Summit League)
15. San Diego State University
16. University of Wisconsin, Madison
17. Gonzaga University
18. University of Notre Dame
19. University of Tennessee, Knoxville
20. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (Southern Conference)
21. University of New Mexico (Mountain West Conference)
22. New Mexico State University (Western Athletic Conference)
23. Portland State University (Big Sky Conference)
24. University of Detroit Mercy (Horizon League)
1. Alison Knowles (University of Louisiana, Monroe)
2. Regan De Guzman (San Jose State University)
3. Clariss Guce (California State University Northridge)
4. Fabiola Arriaga (University of Texas, San Antonio)
5. Madchen Ly (California State University, Fresno)
6. Alexandra White (Brigham Young University)