No. 3 ASU Women's Golf Team Travels to Ohio for NCAA Championships
May 21, 2006
Coming off a tie for fourth place at the 2006 NCAA East Regional, the No. 3 Arizona State women's golf team seeks its seventh NCAA title when it travels to Columbus, Ohio, for the 2006 NCAA Championships (May 23-26). Ohio State University is hosting the event at the par 72, 6,203-yard Scarlet Course.
This season marks ASU's 15th straight trip to the NCAA Championships, the second-longest active streak in the nation (trailing only Stanford with 17). With top 10 finishes in 10 of 11 events this season, including victories in two tournaments, the Sun Devils head to the NCAA Championships looking for their first top-five finish since 1999. Winners of six NCAA titles in the 90s, ASU has finished in the top 15 in 21 of 23 trips to the NCAA Championships, including 17 top 10 showings (tied for eighth place last season).
ABOUT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
The participants will play 18 holes each day Tuesday through Friday, May 23-26 beginning at 8 a.m. Eastern (5 a.m. Arizona time) from tees No. 1 and No. 10. The women's golf committee assigned pairings and tee times for the first two rounds based on each team's finish in its respective regional (East, West, Central) competition. For the second round, players' positions will change within their teams based on first-round scores. For the third and fourth rounds, teams will be paired according to score. ASU will be paired with Oklahoma State and Georgia during the first two rounds of competition. The trio of schools will begin from the first tee on Tuesday at 8 a.m. EST and from the 10th tee on Wednesday at 12:20 p.m. EST.
Twenty-four teams and a total of 126 players will compete in the 2006 NCAA Championships, including eight teams and two individuals from each of the three regionals. Teams from the NCAA East Regional are Tennessee, LSU, California, Florida State, ASU, Auburn, Wake Forest and Alabama. Representing the Central Region are USC, Duke, Pepperdine, Florida, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Kent State and Nebraska. And representing the West Region will be Purdue, UCLA, Washington, Stanford, Georgia, UNLV, Arizona and Arkansas.
Individually speaking, four Sun Devils are ranked in the top 35 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. Freshman Azahara Munoz is No. 10; freshman Jennifer Osborn is No. 15; senior Alissa Kuczka is No. 17 and junior Tiffany Tavee is No. 32.
NCAA EAST REGIONAL RECAP
Despite digging itself into an early hole with a 19-over 307 on the first day of competition, the top-seeded Arizona State women's golf team bounced back to eventually finish in a tie for fourth place at the NCAA East Regional hosted by Wake Forest.
The Sun Devils played inspired golf during the final two rounds of the regional, including a tourney-best four-under 284 in the second round. Leading ASU's charge was senior Alissa Kuczka, who carded a career-best four under 68 in each of the final two rounds to finish the regional in second place.
ASU's NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
This year marks the 15th straight NCAA Championships appearance for the Sun Devils, which is the second-longest active streak in the country. Only Stanford (17) has made more consecutive NCAA Championships appearances. ASU has only missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships one time, which came in 1991, one year after winning the first of its six NCAA titles. ASU has finished among the top 15 at the NCAA Championships 21 times in the team's previous 23 appearances, including 17 top 10 showings.
The Sun Devils have six NCAA team titles to their credit, all won in the 1990s with the most recent coming in 1998. ASU became the first women's golf team in NCAA history to 'three-peat,' sweeping the NCAA crowns from 1993-95. Individually, eight Sun Devils have won national medalist honors, most recently All-American Grace Park in 1999, while five others have been the national runner-up.
Arizona State women's golf coach Melissa Luellen was named the Pac-10's Coach of the Year following her team's second-place finish at the 2006 Pac-10 Championships last month. In voting done by Pac-10 coaches, Luellen was honored for a season in which she has led the Sun Devils to a No. 3 national ranking and 10 top-five finishes.
In addition to Luellen, four other Sun Devils were honored as part of the Pac-10's All-Conference Teams. Freshmen Azahara Munoz and Jennifer Osborn were both named to the All-Pac-10 First Team while senior Alissa Kuczka and junior Tiffany Tavee were both named All-Pac-10 Second Team.
Munoz (7) and Osborn (5) have combined for 12 top-10 finishes this year. Included in Muñoz' finishes this season was a third-place showing at the Wildcat Invitational and a sixth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships. Osborn has three top-five finishes to her credit this season.
Kuczka and Tavee have also been key performers this season in helping the Sun Devils ascend to their current No. 3 national ranking. Kuczka has posted four top-10 finishes this season, including a career-best second-place finish at the Pac-10 Championships and at the NCAA East Regional. Tavee had the lowest round of any Sun Devil this year when she had a 66 in the first round of the PING/ASU Invitational. That score helped propel her to an eventual sixth-place finish in the tournament, one of three top-10 finishes on the year, including a tie for 10th place at the Pac-10 Championships.
SENIOR STEPS UP
One player who has epitomized the time-honored tradition of seniors stepping up during a championship chase is Alissa Kuczka, who is playing the best golf of her career as she approaches her final tournament as a Sun Devil.
Prior to last month's Pac-10 Championships Kuczka had never finished higher than fourth place in her ASU career. That all changed after the Pac-10 Championships as Kuczka finished as the Pac-10 runner up with a one-under for the tournament.
She would top that performance a little more than two weeks later at the NCAA East Regional when she sparked ASU's comeback after the Sun Devils opened the tournament with a 19-over 307 in the first round. Kuczka carded back-to-back four-under 68s in the final two rounds to help the Sun Devils finish tied for fourth place. Making her accomplishments even more extraordinary is that prior to the second round of the NCAA East Regional Kuczka had hit under 70 only one other time (69) in her ASU career (128 rounds).
'To end with back-to-back 68s was pure experience and leadership coming through and that was great,' said ASU head coach Melissa Luellen. 'She never panicked or got flustered. It was just a beautiful display of golf.'
In her last two tournaments, Kuczka's stroke average has been 71.0. Prior to the Pac-10 Championships her stroke average was 74.2.
HEAD COACH MELISSA LUELLEN
2006 Pac-10 Coach of the Year Melissa Luellen is in her fourth year as the head coach of the Arizona State University women's golf team. Last year, she guided the Sun Devils to an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championships and a total of nine top 5 showings, including wins in three tournaments. Already this season, she has led the team to top five finishes in 10 of 11 events, including two tournament victories.
Luellen came to ASU after two seasons as the head coach at her alma mater, the University of Tulsa. A former All-American for the Golden Hurricane, she succeeded her mother, Dale McNamara, who retired in 2000 following a 26-year career that saw her Tulsa teams win four national championships. In her two seasons as Tulsa's head coach, Luellen led her team to seven tournament titles including back-to-back Western Athletic Conference and NCAA Central Regional championships. She also earned WAC Coach of the Year honors in each of her two seasons and was the 2002 Central Region Coach of the Year.
Luellen spent 11 years on the LPGA Tour, winning the 1991 Stratton Mountain LPGA Classic and teaming with Mike Springer to win the 1993 JCPenney Classic. She was also elected to the LPGA Executive Committee in her final two years on the tour and is currently a non-exempt member of the LPGA.
2005-06 BIO UPDATES
Alissa Kuczka 5-4 Senior Phoenix, Ariz.
- The No. 17 ranked player in the country, is currently third on the team with a 73.56 stroke average.
- Second-Team All-Pac-10 selection.
- In her last two tournaments, Kuczka's stroke average has been 71.0.
- Has finished in the top 10 four times this season, including a career-best second-place finish in each of ASU's last two tournaments (at Pac-10 Championships and at NCAA East Regional).
- Sparked ASU's comeback at the NCAA East Regional after the Sun Devils opened the tournament with a 19-over 307 in the first round. Kuczka carded back-to-back four-under 68s in the final two rounds to help ASU finish tied for fourth place. Making her accomplishments even more extraordinary is that prior to the second round Kuczka had hit under 70 only one other time (69) in her ASU career (128 rounds).
- Shot a (then) career-best 69 in the second round of the 2006 Wildcat Invitational.
Azahara Munoz 5-5 Freshman Malaga, Spain
- Currently ranked No. 10 in the nation.
- First-Team All-Pac-10 selection
- First on the team with a 73.03 stroke average.
- Shot a career-best 67 at the 2006 PING/ASU Invitational.
- Has finished in the top 10 seven times in nine appearances.
- Finished tied for sixth (+4) at 2006 Pac-10 Championships.
- Had a season-best third-place finish (-4) at the Wildcat Invitational.
- Tied for sixth (E) at the PING/ASU Invitational.
Jennifer Osborn 5-8 Freshman Huntington Beach, Calif.
- The No. 15 ranked player in the country, is currently second on the team with a 73.46 stroke average.First-Team All-Pac-10 selection.
- Has finished in the top 10 five times this season, including a first-place finish at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational (-1) and a second-place finish at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge (+2).
- Finished tied for 12th place at the NCAA East Regional.
- Shot a 4-under at the Wildcat Invitational to tie for third.
Danelle Perata 5-4 Junior Vacaville, Calif.
- Has played in two tournaments this season (Wildcat Invitational and ASU/PING Invitational).
- Best round of the season was a 74 which came in the second round of the Wildcat Invitational.
- Missed the entire 2004-05 season with a back injury. Had spinal fusion surgery last August.
- Had a 78.07 stroke average during last full season of competition in 2003-04. Included in her 14 rounds that season was a one-under 71 in the second round of the NCAA West Regional which played a big role in helping the Sun Devils, who were in last place after the first round, qualify for the NCAA Championships.
- ASU head coach Melissa Luellen called Perata's performance at the 2004 West Regional, 'One of the best sports moments I have ever seen. Never underestimate Danelle.'
Tiffany Tavee 5-7 Junior Gilbert, Ariz.
- The No. 32 ranked player in the country, is currently fourth on the team with a 74.23 stroke average.
- Second-Team All-Pac-10 selection.
- Has finished in the top 10 three times.
- Shot a career-low round of 66 at the 2006 PING/ASU Invitational, the lowest round of any ASU player this season. Eventually finished the tournament tied for sixth, her best finish of the season.
- Placed seventh at the 2006 Wildcat Invitational after shooting 3-under for the tournament (74, 69, 67).