By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University women’s golf team’s run to the Horizon League championship didn’t go as expected. While the team was in Florida for the tournament, junior Emily Rohanna, senior Aislynn Merling and head coach Nate Miklos fell ill after contracting food poisoning.
Despite less than half of YSU’s competitors becoming sick, the women’s golf team won its first Horizon League championship on Sunday. This is the Penguins’ first conference title since 2009, and the third conference championship in the program’s history.
“The conference [championship] was one of our big goals — one of our biggest goals all year,” Miklos said. “We knew if we continued to focus on our progress we would be in good shape.”
The Penguins finished with three golfers in the top-five — including junior Emily Dixon who shot 75,77 and an even-par 72 to finish in first place with a three-round total of 224 and eight shots over par. Dixon is the fourth Penguin to finish on top of the individual standings of the conference championship since YSU joined the Horizon League.
“She was absolutely incredible — she had a great first round. In the second round she struggled a bit. Even in the final round, she didn’t have a great start, but she’s been playing great,” Mikos said.
Senior Allison Mitzel finished tied for third place after shooting 232, and Merling finished in fifth place with a total of 233. Rohanna and freshman Courtney Shutt finished just outside the top-10 — Rohanna finished 12th and Shutt finished 13th.
The Penguins were tied with Oakland University after both schools shot 308 after the first round. Dixon was tied for third place after the first round.
After the second round, the Penguins were on top of the leaderboard with a combined total of 614, Oakland was in second place with 618. From that point it was a two horse race. Valparaiso University was in third place, but they had a combined score of 653 at the end of the second round.
The Penguins entered the final round of the tournament with a four-shot lead. YSU outscored Oakland University by 12 shots on the back nine to pull away on Sunday with an 11-shot victory.
Miklos has won the women’s Horizon League championship in the past. Miklos was the head coach at Loyola University Chicago from 2003-2005. During the 2004 season, Miklos led the Ramblers to the Horizon League championship.
The YSU golf team has momentum heading into the NCAA Regionals. Miklos said the team would treat the NCAA Regionals just like any other tournament. He said the tournament will be challenging due to tougher competition and the fact that the performance of the other schools competing in the event will be out of the team’s control.
NBC Golf’s Selection Show was televised on Monday night. YSU held a gathering for the women’s golf team at the “Coaches Corner” in Beeghly Center. The team waited to find out which regional they were placed in.
The Penguins were placed in the South Bend, Indiana regional. The event will be held at the Warren Golf Club.
The NCAA golf tournament will feature 18 teams in each of the four regionals. Of those 18 teams, six will be selected to participate in the national championship.
This will be the first season with four regionals. There were only three regionals during the past 14 national championships. The NCAA regionals will take place May 7-9.