By COURTLIN HAYGARTH | HSU Sports Network
EUREKA, Missouri — After an exhilarating finish to Henderson’s first medal match of the day against No. 2 seed West Texas A&M that saw HSU punch a ticket to the Final Four, the Reddies’ season came to a close in the National semifinals against No. 3 nationally ranked and No. 6 seed Nova Southeastern, 3-0-2.
After being ranked as high as No. 4 in the WGCA national rankings, Henderson closes 2022-23 with the best postseason finish in program history. Last season, the Reddies tied the best finish after missing Medal Match Play by one stroke for ninth place.
To kick off the day, No. 7 seed HSU faced No. 2 seed West Texas A&M in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Through the front nine, the Reddies held a slim lead, 3-2, with Allie Bianchi saving par on the Par 4 8th before things got dicey early on the in the back nine.
With Bianchi and Gracen Blount holding a lead on their respective opponents for much of the round, Lily Nelson remained within three strokes of her adversary, but was not able to break through until the red-and-gray absolutely needed her.
That came with four holes left to play. Trailing by three strokes, the GAC Freshman of the Year turned it on with massive putts on 16 and 17, making up three strokes through four holes. With both girls tied heading into the final hole, Nelson hit a brilliant approach shot from behind a tree while West Texas’ player was stuck in the rough to help clinch the individual match win.
With one win under their belt, the Reddies got one more win from Bianchi while the Buffs took the other two matches to leave the deciding point up to the 2022 Central Region Player of the Year. With HSU needed to win outright as the tiebreaker would have gone the way of WTAM, Blount rose to the occasion, sinking a 10-foot putt to send HSU to the National Semifinals as just the second GAC women’s golf program to reach the semis in the conference’s history.
Riding high off the last-second victory, Henderson turned around and played its semifinal match against Nova Southeastern. With rain moving into the area, the Reddies stayed at the Sharks’ hip for the front nine, including Blount against the 2023 Individual Champion. Down the stretch, however, the No. 3 team in the nation pulled away for a 3-0-2 win.
Blount earned the sole win for Henderson in the semifinal match, finishing the Medal Match Play portion without losing a head-to-head contest, while Jinna Boonbumroongsuk tied her opponent.
Henderson St. heads into the offseason after winning its third straight GAC Championship and its second consecutive Central Region Championship while clinching its second trip to Nationals in as many years.