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Women’s golf advances to the NCAA Championships after a runner-up finish in Regional Tournament

Sophomore Jennifer Cleary’s career-best 4-under 67 helped secure the impressive second-place finish

<p>The Cavaliers have qualified for their 12th NCAA Championships appearance in program history.</p>

The Cavaliers have qualified for their 12th NCAA Championships appearance in program history.

Virginia women’s golf continued their postseason success in the NCAA Regional Tournament at the University of Michigan Golf Course in Ann Arbor, Mich. this week from Monday through Wednesday. The Cavaliers, with a second place finish, moved on to the NCAA Championships for the 12th time in program history.

The lineup for the No. 2-seeded Virginia team included graduate student Beth Lillie, junior Celeste Valinho, sophomores Jennifer Cleary and Rebecca Skoler and freshman Amanda Sambach. Senior Riley Smyth played as an alternate.

Cleary and Sambach were recently named to the 15-member 2022 All-Atlantic Coast Conference team, a first-time honor for both players. The pair looked to continue their successful play during the Regional Tournament.

The Cavaliers were paired with No. 1-seeded San Jose State and No. 3-seeded Michigan during the first round of the tournament Monday and finished the day in fourth place with a 10-over 294. Virginia led the tournament during most of this first round until a costly 18th hole where the team played at a combined 5-over par. Sambach, Cleary and Valinho finished the first round tied for 13th place after each shooting 1-over 73.

“This course requires focus on every single shot,” Coach Ria Scott commented on the first round’s performance. “We let a few big numbers get away from us and need to minimize those mistakes tomorrow.”

The mistakes were minimized the next day as the Cavaliers soared into first place after a 3-under 281. This was the third-best single-round score by a women’s team in the history of play at the University of Michigan Golf Course.

Cleary led the team after shooting a 4-under 67, her best career round. She had birdies on three holes in the first nine shooting a front nine 33.

Virginia shot a 6-over 290 during the final round finishing second to San Jose State following its even par 284. These two teams along with Arkansas and Michigan qualified from this regional site.

The Cavaliers were led by Sambach and Cleary who both finished tied for fifth place with a 2-over 215 in the tournament. Valinho shot a closing round 1-under 70 to finish in 11th place. Lillie ended in 19th overall with a 9-over 222. Smyth was substituted into the lineup following the first round and shot a 73 in the final round.

“I am so proud of the way the team played and carried themselves this week,” said Scott following the end of play. “They were extremely disciplined and confident in their course management and that was such a difference maker.”

Virginia hopes to continue playing well in the NCAA Championship beginning May 20 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. The tournament includes three consecutive days of play for a total of 54-holes to decide which 15 teams move onto the final day of stroke play. Following this, the top eight teams play match play to decide an NCAA Champion along with 72-holes for an individual champion.