Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 01:04
Photo courtesy of the Big Sky Conference
From left to right: head coach Brandon White, junior Hannah McNeley, junior Libby Avery, senior Ali Nelson, junior Carleigh Silvers, senior Chelsea Silvers and Ben Portie
For the first time since joining the Big Sky Conference, the UNC women’s golf team won the conference championship, doing so Tuesday in Chandler, Ariz., and will now head to the NCAA West Regional, which is scheduled for May 10-12 in Erie.
The team was ranked seventh going into the tournament but came out as No. 1 with junior Carleigh Silvers winning the individual championship by shooting a three-under-par 213 over three days. Eighteen years after becoming an NCAA competitor, the underdog storyline played out in the University of Northern Colorado’s favor this week.
“The biggest Big Sky victory, biggest underdog victory in any Big Sky Championship,” head coach Brandon White said. “We were definitely the dark horse going into it, but that’s what’s cool about it. It was the five girls who played and myself and my assistant coach (Ben Portie) who knew we could.”
Silvers said Wednesday the feeling hadn’t quite sunk in yet, but she had confidence in the team to win going into the championship.
“We knew we could win,” Silvers said. “To play as well as we did was great.”
Silvers had a one-shot advantage over her sister, senior Chelsea Silvers, who tied with Portland State senior Tiffany Schoning for second place.
“I wanted nothing more than to win a conference championship with (Chelsea),” Carleigh said. “It’s great to share it with her. We have a competitive relationship, but it’s friendly competition.”
Seniors Ali Nelson and junior Libby Avery both placed 18th and junior Hannah McNeley placed in 21st.
During the first day of competition, the Bears broke their single-round record, shooting 290 and having a first place lead. White said record breaking was a goal, but by no means was it the focus.
“We’re glad we took first and that we did play that well,” he said. “It gave us an extra boost of confidence going into the last two days. The goal is always to break records. We didn’t have a number in mind. We just wanted to play well and to see at the end of the day how we play and we did really well.”
The team’s victory marks the eighth Big Sky Championship in all sports in the last three years, including regular and postseason for UNC. The other wins came from the volleyball (3), soccer (1), women’s (1) and men’s (2) basketball programs.
“It says a lot of our athletic department and the commitment to winning,” White said. “The directors give us what we need to succeed. It shows that our athletic department as a whole with every team trying to be competitive in the Big Sky.”