Two-Time All-Region Honoree Nathalie Mansson
May 4, 2011
By Zach Stipe, Media Relations Assistant
AUBURN, Wash. - The No. 11-ranked Tennessee Lady Vol golf team is seeking a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships this week at the NCAA West Regional at Washington National Golf Club.
The fifth-seeded Big Orange will tee off the three-day, 54-hole tournament at 9:06 a.m. PT on Thursday in a group with No. 4-seed Georgia and No. 6-seed Pepperdine. UT starts the second round at 1:26 p.m. CT on Friday.
A top-eight finish in the 24-team field will advance the Lady Vols to the NCAA Championships from May 18-21 at the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas. The Lady Vols' sights are much higher than simply advancing, however.
"We, in the past, have gone with a goal to just advance, but we are going in with the goal to really compete to win the tournament," Lady Vol head golf coach Judi Pavon said. "We'd like to really move up in the rankings, so a good finish could boost us ahead of a couple other teams."
Pavon has guided Tennessee to six of the last seven NCAA Championships, and she doesn't expect the three-hour time difference moving from the East to the West this week to affect the Lady Vols. Besides, the last time UT competed at the NCAA West Regional, in Last Cruces, N.M. in 2005, it tied for first.
"Traveling East to West is always a lot easier, especially since we play early in the morning," Pavon said. "We won't have any trouble waking up. We got in early on Tuesday so we would have time to adjust."
Pavon Talks West Regional
Freshman Chessey Thomas definitely won't have any problems competing in Auburn. A Spokane, Wash., native, Thomas is excited to compete in her home state again. She won back-to-back Washington 4A state girls championships in 2009 and 2010.
"I'm really excited to get to go back home and play in front of some friends and family," Thomas said. "I think this course sets up well. We hit the ball very accurately so I think Washington National will suit us well."
Popson is coming off a spectacular wire-to-wire win at the SEC Championship from April 15-17 and brings three straight first-place finishes and a No. 4 world amateur ranking to the Evergreen State.
"Erica is such a great competitor," Pavon said. "I know she will be ready. For her, it's about the competition. She thrives on that."
A year ago, Popson tied for fourth at the NCAA East Regional, while Mansson tied for ninth as both earned All-Region honors and led Tennessee to a runner-up finish in Greeneville, N.C.
Popson was named to the All-SEC First Team late last week. Mansson captured Second Team accolades and Rohrback garnered All-Freshman honors. Monberg collected SEC Community Service Team laurels on Monday.