Don’t count Kelley Hester among those who were surprised by the Clemson Tigers winning the ACC Championship.
The Clemson coach has been telling people her team was trending up this spring and after beating Duke and then Virginia in ACC Match Play she has proof to back up her claim.
The Tigers earned their first ACC golf championship with a 3-1-1 victory over the Cavaliers.
The Tigers took charge early and even with a few knuckle biting moments late in the match locked up the win and the conference championship.
“It has taken a lot of hard work,” said the Clemson coach. “These kids have gotten better every week,”she said.
After finishing third in a head to head to head battle with #3 LSU and #17 Ole Miss in the Clemson Invitational the Tigers entered the ACC Championship as the fourth highest rated team in the conference.
Wake Forest was ranked second with #11 Florida State, #22 Virginia and the #24th Tigers.
When Hester looked over the field, making it into Match Play was a realistic goal.
“Statistically we could see ourselves there (match play). We were ranked a little ahead of Duke and I felt good about how we were going to handle them,” said Hester.
The Tigers advanced to the final match with a 3-1-1 victory over the Blue Devils.
Virginia earned their place in the finals with an upset of the defending champions and second ranked Wake Forest.
“Today this Virginia team really showed up. They were strong and we were just fortunate to get out of there with enough wins to clinch the championship,” Hester said.
On the way to the ACC tournament Hester has played a lot of golfers and developed the kind of dept needed especially in match play. a format her Tigers love competing in.
“The Match Play piece is a lot of fun. This particular group of kids I have love match play,’ she said.
Clemson put the first point on the board when Melena Barrientos took a 3&2 win over Celeste Valinho.
The Tiger sophomore believed the way the Tigers had been playing. they would be hard to beat in the final.
“We have been playing so well this week, we knew if we just played our game and the course they would have to play really well to beat us” said Barrientos.
The match was evened when ACC individual champion Amanda Sambach defeated Annabelle Pancake 2&1.
Chloe Holder built up a sizable lead and went on to win her match with Rebbeca Skolar 4&3 to give the Tigers their second point.
“We have so many players who can take it deep,” said Holder. “We know if anyone of us is having trouble someone else on the team will pick them up,” she said.
Freshman Isabella Rawl seemed to have her match well in hand, but Virginia’s Megan Propeck fought back from three down with three to play to take the match to the 18th hole.
Rawl won her match when Propeck could only match Rawls’ par on the last hole.
The Tiger freshman won her match 1 up and the team won the ACC title 3-1.
“I’m just a freshman, I didn’t know what to expect.” said Rawl. “The coaches told us to go out and have fun, embrace the moment because you never know if you will be in the situation again. We’ve been working so hard and been so close, I’m so excited for everybody,” she said.
Savannah Grewel was even with Jennifer Cleary still on the course when Rawl won the match to give the Tigers the third point needed for the championship.
“We never even made it into match play before so I’m so proud of our team, they have all done their part. We are just having so much fun,” added Barrientos.
While some teams are dominated by one or two players, the win produced by the middle of the Clemson lineup is due to a great team chemistry, according to Holder.
“We have such a great team dynamic. The entire teams attitude is so positive. I know the old “no I in team thing” but with our team everyone is so supportive that is the case,” Holder said.
The ACC Championship will certainly move the Tigers up in the rankings as they prepare for NCAA Regional play.
Regional assignments will be announced on April 26th with Regional play to begin on May 8th
ACC Championship final scores
Categories: College Golf, Video Highlights & Interviews
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