ANN ARBOR, Mich. – For the 12th time in program history, the No. 8 Virginia women’s golf team has advanced to the NCAA Championships. The Cavaliers punched their ticket to the national championship by placing second at the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional on Wednesday at the University of Michigan Golf Course. The top four teams from six regional sites advance to the championship round of the event.
Virginia, the number-two seed at the regional site, finished second with a 54-hole total of 13-over 865. Top-seed San Jose State used a late final-round surge to move past the Cavaliers on the leaderboard and finish first at 10-over 862. UVA shot 6-over 290 during the final round while the Spartans posted a score of even par 284. Also qualifying from the site were Arkansas and Michigan. Those teams tied for third place at 28-over 880.
“I am so proud of the way the team played and carried themselves this week,” said Virginia head coach Ria Scott. “They were extremely disciplined and confident in their course management and that was such a difference maker.
“I am especially proud of Jennifer (Cleary) and Amanda (Sambach) for their performances in this regional. Amanda competed like a veteran, and Jennifer is really hitting a good stride.”
UVA’s finish matched its best showing at an NCAA Regional site in the program’s 19-year history. The Cavaliers were the runners-up at the 2018 event in Madison, Wisc. Last season UVA failed to advance out of the regional site in Columbus, Ohio as a team. Beth Lillie advanced as an individual competitor and went on to place ninth at the NCAA Championships.
“I’m so proud of the team for the year of hard work that has helped us get to this moment,” Lillie said. “I feel so lucky to practice and compete with such driven teammates and I can’t wait to watch all our hard work pay off at the national championship!”
The Cavaliers were led by fifth-place finishes from freshman Amanda Sambach and sophomore Jennifer Cleary. They finished the tournament at 2-over 215. Sambach posted a final-round score of 1-over 72 while Cleary shot 75.
Junior Celeste Valinho had UVA’s best closing-round score, shooting 1-under 70 to post an 11th-place finish at 4-over 217. Graduate student Beth Lillie was 19th overall at 9-over 222. She shot 77 on Wednesday. Senior Riley Smyth, who was substituted into the lineup after the opening round, shot 73 to be a counting player for UVA during the final round.
Cleary’s finish marked the fifth time this season she has recorded a top-10 performance while Sambach’s was her fourth of the year and second straight after coming off a third-place showing at the ACC Championships.
Virginia is one of three ACC teams to advance to the NCAA Championships. No. 16 Florida State won the Tallahassee Regional and No. 4 Wake Forest placed third at the Franklin Regional hosted by Vanderbilt. A total of 10 ACC teams qualified for NCAA Regional competition.
“We’ve played a very strong schedule this year where we’ve competed well with top teams week in and week out,” Scott said. “We were prepared for this week and will be even more ready for nationals.”
The NCAA Championship will be contested at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. The 54-holes of stroke play begin Friday, May 20. The tournament consists of three days of stroke play on Friday thru Sunday (54 holes), after which the top 15 teams and nine individuals not on an advancing team will be determined. That will be followed by a final day of 18 holes of stroke play (Monday) to determine the top eight teams that will advance to match play as well as the 72-hole individual champion. The team national champion will be determined by a match-play format that will consist of quarterfinals and semifinals conducted on Tuesday, followed by the finals on Wednesday.
Golf Channel will provide live coverage of the event starting with the final round of stroke play on May 23.
NCAA Ann Arbor Regional
University of Michigan Golf Course
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Par 71, 6,265 yards
1. San Jose State 294-284-284-862
2. Virginia 294-281-290-865
3. Arkansas 291-291-298-880
3. Michigan 293-300-287-880
5. Virginia Tech 302-302-279-883
6. Pepperdine 300-304-289-893
7. North Carolina 299-306-290-895
8. Ohio State 300-304-298-902
9. Washington 293-305-305-903
10. Xavier 299-310-296-905
11. UCF 300-304-305-909
12. Oakland 316-312-314-942
1. Natasha Andrea Oon, San Jose State 70-69-68-207
2. Emily Mahar, Virginia Tech 72-71-69-212
3. Lucia Lopez-Ortega, San Jose State 72-71-70-213
3. Jana Melichova, Old Dominion 69-74-70-213
5. Amanda Sambach 73-70-72-215
5. Jennifer Cleary 73-67-75-215
11. Celeste Valinho 73-74-70-217
19. Beth Lillie 75-70-77-222
nf. Riley Smyth na-75-73-148
nf. Rebecca Skoler 76-na-na-na