COLUMBUS, Ind. - Eighteen holes. That's all that stands between Kent State's first NCAA Championship berth since 2006 and a possible individual regional title for junior Martina Gavier.
The Golden Flashes find themselves in 11th place two-thirds of the way through the NCAA Central Regional. However, Kent State is just five strokes out of fifth place as no fewer than 12 teams can lay legitimate claim to one of eight coveted NCAA spots.
"This course is hard enough on its own and then when you throw the wind in it becomes survival of the fittest," head coach Mike Morrow said. "We didn't quite finish like I'd hoped, but we're well within striking distance considering you can make up five strokes on one or two holes on this course. Tomorrow should be very exciting - we need to get off to a good start and maintain that momentum."
Meanwhile, Gavier is just a stroke off the individual lead after following her opening round 72 with a three-over 75. Despite three bogeys in her first four holes, the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year settled down, making two birdies and two bogies over her final 14 holes in 20-30 mile per hour winds. At 147, she sits just a stroke behind Oklahoma State's Victoria Park and USC's Lizette Salas. Salas vaulted 14 spots with a one-under par 71 - the only subpar round of the day.
"Martina is playing the best golf of her career right now," Morrow said. "She has tremendous confidence and has carried us the first two days. We'll need another strong effort out of her tomorrow."
No. 4 USC carded the low round of the day - a 304 (+16) - to take a four stroke lead over second-ranked Arizona State, 603-607. No. 7 Purdue is in fifth place at 623 (+47), a mere five shots ahead of the 11th-place Flashes.
The blustery conditions pushed the average score to 81.9 among the 24 teams competing on the 6,416-yard, par 72 Otter Creek Golf Club.
Sophomore Mercedes Germino contributed a solid 79 to the Kent State cause, including a one-over 37 on the back nine, and is tied for 56th at 160 (+16). Junior Sarah Bradley is also at 160 after an 82 Friday, while sophomores Mandi Morrow (T-65th, 161) and Shamira Marshall (T-84th, 166) carded matching 83s.
Kent State will be paired with No. 13 Georgia and No. 22 Florida State Saturday morning and will tee off from the 10th hole beginning at 9:06 a.m.