First time, last time: Florida Tech wins D2 title as program ends
Florida Tech's women (Daniel Supraner/Florida Tech Athletics)
For weeks now, Florida Tech players knew that this week, the curtain would fall on their program. Nothing about it would be normal for the Panthers. For one thing, Florida Tech had never been to a national championship before. What a fitting swan song.
University officials announced in February that they would cut three varsity sports after the spring season so that they could better focus their resources on remaining athletic programs. Men’s and women’s tennis were also shuttered this spring.
On Saturday, Florida Tech won the NCAA Division II Women’s National Championship in its debut at the event. This is also the first time that the Division II national champion was decided by medal match play. It would be hard to script it any better.
Florida Tech finished 54 holes of stroke play at PGA National’s Champions Course in Palm Beach, Fla. – the same course that hosts the Honda Classic – with a 47-over 923 total. That left them four shots ahead of Cal State San Marcos, and with the No. 1 seed on the match-play bracket. Remarkably, Florida Tech went on to win its quarterfinal match against Findlay, then took down Southwestern Oklahoma State in the semifinals.
The Panthers met No. 2-seeded Cal State San Marcos in the championship match, got up to an early lead and kept it. In medal match play, players essentially play head-to-head stroke play. After the 18-hole round, the player with the lower score wins the match.
In Saturday’s championship match, Florida Tech senior Lucy Eaton led off with a one-shot win over her opponent. Senior teammate Paola Ortiz won her match by four shots.
Sophomore Megan Dennis brought in Florida Tech’s third point in the third match, and effectively clinched the title.
The Panthers won three of their last four regular-season events to help earn their spot in the postseason. The past few months have been the ultimate rally cry for head coach Chris Saltmarsh's squad.
It’s the fourth one that they’ll never forget.