Despite being the top-ranked team in the NCAA’s Midwest region and finishing the season on the hot streak, the No. 17 Carleton College women’s golf team was left out of the mix when bids to the NCAA Championships were announced on Monday.
Also conspicuously absent was freshman sensation Shannon Holden, who was also the top-ranked individual not on an automatic-qualifying team from the region.
Only five at-large team bids ended up being available, compared to past years when seven or eight teams were selected on an at-large basis. More conferences met the required minimum number of rounds to earn the NCAA’s automatic bid, leaving the Knights on the outside looking in at selection time.
More curious, however, was the exclusion of Holden. The MIAC individual champion posted a lower stroke average and had a much better schedule than another individual picked.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed that we weren’t selected, or that Shannon wasn’t included in the NCAA field,” Carleton head coach Eric Sieger said. “But we won’t let someone else’s decisions impact how we feel about our season. We know, and everyone in our region and the country knows, that we’re one of the top 15 teams in the country and that we had an outstanding season.”
Carleton was hardly alone in holding a strong ranking and missing out on the team selections. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (third in the final Golfstat ranking), California Lutheran (ninth), Trinity of Texas (10th), Whitman (13th), Carleton (14th) and Redlands (15th) were all left out because of the lack of at-large bids.
“I think it’s a really sad statement on our process that those six teams won’t be part of a purported national championship while teams that can’t break 360 will be playing,” Sieger said. “I think it’s something that us as coaches need to push the NCAA to implement a different qualification process, because Division III women’s golf has never been stronger, but that’s not reflected at our national championship.”
The Knights finish the 2013-14 season with their best campaign ever. They won two events for the first time in a single season and set a new school record with a 323.9 stroke average, the lowest in the conference and region. They posted seven of the 10 best 18-hole scores in school history this season alone, and four of the top five 36-hole scores. Holden set a new single-season scoring record with a 79.0 scoring average.
“It was an absolute joy to coach this group, and so inspiring to watch them perform at such a high level when the stakes were the highest,” Sieger said. “They had such absolute belief and confidence in themselves and one another. I’m already excited to get going again in the fall, and we know what we need to do in order to reach our goals in 2014-15.”
The Knights return their entire roster next year.