The Commodores finished eighth and will make their first ever trip to the national finals. The NCAA Championships will be played on the Washington National Golf Club in Seattle May 23-26. The top eight teams from each of three regionals advance.
Duke was a runaway winner with a course record, five-under par 859, 13 shots better than second place Auburn. Vanderbilt was battling SEC team champion South Carolina, Tennessee, Tulane and perennial national power Georgia to make the coveted cut.
Vanderbilt sophomores led the way for the team. Sarah Jacobs shot 74 and classmate Courtney Wood had a 75. Meredith Ward and Nicki Cutler checked in with a pair 76s and Joni Gossett had another 78.
"This might be the toughest round of golf our kids will ever play," said Coach Martha Freitag proudly. "It's almost the qualifying school times two because you are not only playing for yourself but for your team. Making it through this regional is a huge step for our program.
"A program grows by baby steps," Freitag continued. "If you look at our schedule, you will see that we played in a number of high quality events. We were not quite able to win a tournament but we played in many big-time pairings and got close several times. I am sure that helped us handle the pressure today."
Freitag noted the youthful tint to her team and that the Commodores had never been able to advance beyond the regional. A year ago, VU was 10th at the East Regional shooting 911 over the 54 holes.
"I feel good about how we played," Freitag continued. "I was very proud of how hard they battled. The conditions were more difficult today with a strong breeze."
The leaders went off in the morning flight of play and Vanderbilt played the back nine first, paired with Georgia and Tulane -- who they would battle nose-to-nose for over five hours.
Jacobs went three-over on the back nine before turning in a one-under front nine and a steady 74.
"I give a lot of credit to Sarah J.," Freitag said. "She played a very courageous round; she has a great mix of heart and composure and really came through."
Wood had a rough start with a pair of double bogeys and a bogey against two birdies. She settled down with an even front side, two birdies and two bogeys.
Ward was having a steady round dominated by pars until she three-putted two of her last three holes to finish four-over par.
Gossett, the freshman, had two strings of bogeys in her round. She bogeyed 11-12-13 to start her day and then went one-over on No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 before regaining her touch.
Cutler was sailing along even par through ten holes until she went bogey-double, bogey on holes 2 and 3. She then dropped in a birdie on No. 6 to gain a shot back but then double bogeyed the difficult seventh and finished four-over for the day.
Freitag thinks that despite an eighth seed from this rugged regional, Vanderbilt's chances for an strong national finish are good.
"This golf course (LSU's University Club) does not tend to separate out the teams like some other courses will. I think we will continue to play good golf."
Duke 291-280-288--859 (-5)
Wake Forest 293-288-295--875
South Florida 289-296-298-883
South Carolina 298-293-298--889
North Carolina State 303-303-301--907
Texas A & M 306-299-313--918
Central Florida 305-304-303--912
Mississippi State 307-302-308--917
North Carolina 294-311-311--916
Jackson State 335-320-*
* Round not complete as of filing but out of contention
Meredith Ward 74-73-76-223 (+7 - tied for 35th)
Sarah Jacobs 70-79-74-223 (+7 -- tied for 35th)
Nicki Cutler 78-71-76-225 (+9 - tied for 47th)
Joni Gossett 78-73-78-229 (+13 - tied for 66th)
Courtney Wood 74-80-75-229 (+13 - tied for 66th)
Leigh Ann Hardin, Duke 71-67-72 --210 (-6)
Celeste Troche, Auburn 69-70-72--211
Meredith Duncan, LSU 68-72-73--213
Courtney Swain, Auburn 70-72-71--213
Jameica Duncombe, SF 68-72-75--215
Meaghan Francella, Mem 70-71-74--215
Katie Futcher, Penn State 72-72-73--217
Virada Nirapathponporn, Duke 75-71-71--217
Adrienne Gautreaux, USC 75-69-74--218
Kristina Engstrom, Duke 74-70-74--218