Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photo of Freddy Braun teeing off the 13th hole in the third round on Thursday, taken by Tim Flynn (NCAA). Braun sqaured his match against Saint Leo in the Quarterfinal round.
DENVER, Colo. - - The record breaking season for the Wilmington University golf team has come to an end on Friday, as top seeded and No. 2 Saint Leo took down the Wildcats, 3-0-2, in match play at the NCAA Division II National Tournament Quarterfinal round, held at the Green Valley Ranch Golf Club.
Becoming the first team from the East Region (Central Atlantic Collegiate Conferece, Northeast-10 Conference, and the East Coast Conference) to crash the Top 8 after three rounds of stroke play, the Wildcats advanced to Medal Match Play in their fifth all-time trip to the NCAA National Tournament. The Wildcats joined five teams from the state of Florida, and two teams from the state of California in the Medal Match Quarterfinal round.
Sam Clark was first off the tee for the Wildcats and played even golf with Saint Leo's Ryan Gendron through the first four holes. Clark moved ahead with a win on the fifth hole but found himself down three holes after the 11th green. He was able to cut the deficit to a single point with wins on 12 and 14, and halve the match by both golfers finishing with a 74 (+2) for the round, despite Gendron winning the match play format, 2-up.
Second off the tee box, sophomore Joey Russo was the first to make a dent in the action, sinking a par putt on the first hole to quickly get ahead. Russo also moved ahead of Griffin Clark with another par on three, but Russo gave the point right back and was all-square after four holes. He was down a hole when making the turn. Back-to-back hole-wins allowed Russo to square the match after 12, but a double bogey on 17 set the Wildcat back. Going for broke on 18, he again bogeyed to drop the hole and allow Saint Leo to move ahead, 2-0, on the scoreboard, as Russo finished with an 80 (+8) to Griffin Clark's 75 (+3).
Freddy Braun found himself down a pair of points after 10 holes of play, but quickly struck back to win holes 11 and 13 to even the match. He was again down a hole following the 15th, but sank a birdie putt on the par three 17 to even the match play portion, but lost in stroke play as Liam Ainsworth shot a 69 (-3) to Braun's 74 (+2).
Facing a tough task in stroke play individual winner Hugo Bernard, Wildcat freshman Ryan Rucinski was up to the task, keeping close to Bernard throughout. Bernard slowly moved his way to three-up through 12 but Rucinski struck back with a win on the 14th hole. But Rucinski wasn't able to get any closer in the next three holes, hitting three staright pars to match Bernard going to the 18th. Rucinski finished strong with an eagle on 18, halving the match with the individual national champion as both golfers finished with a 70 (-2) for the day, despite Bernard winning in match play, 1-up.
Last on the course for the Wildcats was senior Andreas Lunding, and he quickly found himself in an early hole. Lunding was down by as many as three points after the sixth hole, but slowly worked himself back into the match. A par on eight won Lunding a hole before a birdie putt on 10 brought the senior to within a point of Saint Leo's Joey Savoie. Another birdie putt on 14 squared the match for Lunding before a bogey on 18 ended the match in favor of Savoie's 67 (-5) to Lunding's 71 (-1).
The Lions move on to face fourth seeded Lynn in the Semifinal round later on Friday afternoon. Second seeded Chico State will take on third seeded Florida Southern in the other Semifinal match.
The Wildcats advanced to their first Match Play portion of the NCAA Division II National Tournament after shooting a 289-286-291 in the three stroke play rounds, finishing in eighth with an 866 (+2). They have been to the National Tournament in five of the last six seasons.