GREENEVILLE, Tenn.. --- It was moving day at the 2011 NAIA Women's Golf National Championships, and California Baptist University made quite a move--right towards the top of the leader board and in prime contention for its first-ever national championship.
The Lancers shot a 312, the best round of the day among the 25-team field, passed three teams and moved up into second place heading into tomorrow's final round. CBU's 54-hole total of 945 (319-314-312) is just two strokes shy of Embry-Riddle (Fla.), which leads with a total of 943 (323-305-315).
CBU is the only team in the top 15 that has improved its score each round.
Oklahoma City (330-306-314) and Shorter (Ga.) (326-305-319) are tied for third with a 950, five strokes behind the Lancers and seven behind Embry-Riddle. Lubbock Christian (Texas) is fifth, eight strokes off the pace with a 951 (325-302-324).
In fourth place and six strokes off the pace coming into today's round, the Lancers started out on fire and was just +2 through the first seven holes, inching their way towards the top of the board.
However, they hit some adversity in the middle of the round, playing the middle seven holes at +14, but then the Lancers regrouped to play the final four holes at +4, finishing with an 18-hole total of +20.
"We almost got to the point in the first eight holes where we could have locked it down today, and then we fell asleep and lost our focus until around the 15th," said CBU Head Coach Lane Pace. "We were close to being really good, then went through a funk and were bad, but we finished strong. Now we're in the hunt, and hopefully we can play all 18 tomorrow like we played the first eight today."
Every other team today was +22 or worse.
Nathalie Silva made a personal charge to the top of the board, catching her playing partner and round two leader Kylie Barros of British Columbia. Barros led Silva by two strokes at the start of the day, but Silva's second straight even-par 73, which included five birdies, brought her even and now the two are tied for the individual lead with 222 heading into tomorrow's final round.
"Nathalie was Nathalie today," said Pace. "I like her chances tomorrow. She's the defending champion and knows what it will take. Not only does she know how to handle the pressure, but she thrives with it."
Silva played the front nine at -2 (35) and then quickly got to -3 with a birdie at 10. However, she double-bogeyed 11 for the second straight round, and then registered a bogey at 12 to fall two strokes behind Barros.
Despite a bogey at 13, Silva was able to catch Barros, who tripled. Silva then took a one-stroke lead with a par three at 14 and then increased the lead to two with a birdie at 15.
However, while Silva scored par on each the final three holes, Barros birded 16 and 18 to draw back even.
"We were laughing together at it," said Silva, referring to her back-and-forth round with Barros. "We know each other well, and enjoy playing together. For me, I just try to play against the course as opposed to playing against another player. When she got her seven, though, that gave me a chance, and I knew if I could make par from there to the house, it would end up being a good round."
Silva is in prime position to become the first player in the NAIA history to win back-to-back titles. Silva and Barros are both four strokes ahead of third place.
"I made some mistakes today on some of the same holes I made mistakes on yesterday," said Silva. "I want to play those holes better tomorrow and focus on those. All I want to do is play well against the course again."
Meanwhile, as Silva was lifting her team from the back of the group, she got plenty of help from those in front of her.
Sara Koizumi, who record 14 pars in yesterday's 78, had an unbelievable round today. Koizumi got a par on the five-par first hole and then proceeded to post a quadruple bogey on two and a double bogey at three and was sitting at +6 through three holes.
However, the sophomore rebounded and recorded a remarkable string of 14 straight pars that came to an end on the final hole when registered her first birdie of the tournament to post her second consecutive 78. Over her past 36 holes, Koizumi has 29 pars and a birdie.
"Sara started out really tough, but then the switch flipped and she played probably the greatest round of her life over the last 15 holes," said Pace. "That really picked up the team."
Koizumi has climbed into the top 25 where she is tied with teammate Adriana Niclotti for 24th. Niclotti, a two-time All-American, struggled for the second straight day, finishing with a second consecutive 82.
Samantha Katz, who earlier in the day was named Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete for the second straight year, celebrated with her best round of the week so far. After an 83 in the opening round and an 84 in yesterday's second round, Katz posted a solid 80 today.
She played the front-nine at +4, and could have been better if not for a double-bogey seven at nine. She quickly birdied 10, the first of two birdies on the back nine, where she finished +3 with a solid par at 18.
Kirsten Keyser strung together her second straight 81, playing the first six holes at even par and then was +2 through the front-nine. She also had four pars on the back nine, finishing +6 there.
"Sara, Samantha and Kirsten were solid today, right when we needed them to be," said Pace.
The Lancers' quest for their first national title concludes tomorrow when they tee off in the final groups, beginning at 1:50 p.m. (EDT). They play with Embry-Riddle and Oklahoma City.