May 7, 2010
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Led by phenomenal back-nine performances from freshman Erica Popson and sophomore Nathalie Mansson, the 15th-ranked Tennessee women's golf team vaulted to second-place on Friday during second round action at the NCAA East Regional.
The Lady Vols fired their second straight under-par team score, a 1-under 287, at the par-72, 6,321-yard Ironwood Golf Course. Their 36-hole 570 (-6) total shattered Tennessee's previous two-round record of 574, set earlier this season at the Mercedes-Benz Championships.
The record-setting start puts Tennessee in position to qualify for its second consecutive NCAA Championship and sixth appearance in seven years. The top eight teams and top two individuals not on a qualifying team earn a trip to the Wilmington, N.C., site of the national championship tournament, from May 18-21. UT has a 13-stroke cushion over ninth-place, the final non-qualifying position.
"We didn't start that well," Lady Vol head coach Judi Pavon said. "Everybody was a little bit over par. As they came through the turn, Erica lit it up and made a bunch of birdies. Nathalie had a couple birdies, too. They all just really hung in there and made up ground on the back nine like they needed to. I'm really happy for them. This is a nerve-racking tournament. Even after today, you can't feel safe, but at least we put ourselves in a good position."
The Lady Vols will be in the lead group for Saturday's final round. Joining the Big Orange will be the leader, third-ranked Duke (-8), and a familiar face, 11th-ranked Pepperdine (-5). UT has played the first two rounds with the Waves. The trio will tee off from No. 1 at 9:06 a.m.
Popson brought in a 33 on the back nine, including three consecutive birdies on holes 11, 12 and 13, en route to a 4-under 68 second-round score. The Davenport, Fla., native is tied for fifth with a 72-68=140 (-4) total, but is just one stroke away from the leaders.
"Erica only made one birdie yesterday, but she had a great round today," Pavon said. "She has such a great attitude. She stood up on the eighth tee and told herself that she had to keep her attitude good because you never know when you're going to start making birdies. Then she started right after that. That was really exciting for her and Nathalie to bring it back and finish under-par."
Mansson played two-under for the last nine holes and finished with a 1-under 71. Coupled with her day one 72, Mansson has a 1-under 143 total and is tied for 12th. She now has 15 rounds of par or better in 2009-10, one away from the UT single-season mark.
Senior Diana Cantú is also tied for 12th after following her opening round 69 with a 74 for a 1-under 143 two-day score. The Monterrey, Mexico, native fought hard on the back nine, following a double bogey on No. 12 with back-to-back birdies.
Rounding out Tennessee's scorers was freshman Sara Monberg. The Juelsminde, Denmark, native fired a 74 on Friday. Her 70-74=144 (E) total ties her for 21st heading into the final day of competition.
Junior Lauren Spurlock, playing as UT's No. 5, fired a 77. She has a 76-77=153 (+9) total and is tied for 83rd.
|LADY VOL SCORES|
|t5.||Erica Popson||72-68=140 (-4)|
|t12.||Diana Cantú||69-74=143 (-1)|
|t12.||Nathalie Mansson||72-71=143 (-1)|
|t21.||Sara Monberg||70-74=144 (-E)|
|t83.||Lauren Spurlock||76-77=153 (+9)|
|* Lady Vol 36-hole record|