After posting a 4-over-par 292 and 299 during the first two rounds, the Lady Bulldogs entered Saturday's final round tied for sixth, with only one shot separating them and the end of their season. Facing the most important round of the year, they fired a 7-under-par 281 and climbed into third place with a three-round 8-over-par 872.
The 281 is the second-lowest round in program history, while the 872 is the second-lowest tournament card in history.
"It's kind of surreal still," third-year MSU coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said. "We met in the parking lot before today's round and we talked about that this was just another final round of a golf tournament. It was about today's round and one shot at a time. The only thing that mattered is the next shot."
This marks the first time MSU has advanced to the NCAA Championships as a team. Before this season, MSU's best postseason finish came with a 12th-place card in the 2002 NCAA East Regional.
"You know I expected (to make the NCAA Championships) but maybe not this soon," Brown-Lemm said. "I'm elated that all of the girls were firing on all cylinders on the same round. It is something we haven't been able to enjoy yet."
The NCAA Championships will be hosted at the UGA Golf Course in Athens, Ga., on May 21-24. The event will be a four-round stroke-play tournament, as opposed to the normal three-round events.
No. 29 Ally McDonald also claimed the NCAA Central Regional title, firing a school record 10-under-par 206. She claimed a dominating five-stroke victory over a trio of second-place finishers.
The sophomore notched back-to-back 3-under-par 69's during the first two rounds before firing a career-best 68 for the final round.
McDonald traded a birdie-bogey start Saturday and finished the front nine with birdies on three of her last five holes. After holing out with an 8 iron from 139 yards for an eagle on the 394-yard, par-4 16th, she moved to 6-under. The Fulton native stumbled coming in with a double bogey on the par-5 18th as her third shot landed in a bunker short of the green.
"Surprisingly, I just felt very relaxed," McDonald said. "Most of my shots were fairly consistent. I didn't have very many big misses, obviously, besides the last hole. I kind of stumbled coming in but the eagle on 16 kind of canceled that double out. Things happen for a reason. It was all around a good round."
Sophomore Rica Tse and junior Mary Langdon Gallagher each notched 221's for the regional, which were season-best cards for each Tse turned in back-to-back 76's in the first two rounds but fired a 69 on Saturday, which tied her career-best. The New Zealand native birdied five of six holes from No. 8 to No. 13 and finished with seven birdies on the day.
After an opening-round 76, Gallagher fired a second-round 72 followed by a final-round 1-over-par 73. The Greenwood native birdied No. 9 and moved to 1-under at the turn. She managed a 2-over on the back to finish tied for 30th.
Elena Warren fired her second 71 of the regional during the third round. The 1-under matches her career-best, while the sophomore's three-round 225 was only two strokes off her career-low.
Freshman Gabi Oubre' rounded out the Lady Bulldog leaderboard with three-round 233 behind a final-round 75, which is the second-lowest postseason round in freshman history.
Third-ranked Duke finished atop the leaderboard, firing a tournament-best 12-under-par 276 Saturday. The Blue Devils' three-round 851 claimed a six-stroke victory over No. 4 Oklahoma, the tournament host.
Fans can follow the women's golf program on Twitter, @mstateWG, and on Facebook at facebook.com/mstateWG.