Monday, April 13, 2009 | Golf
Illinois State Picked to Win 2009 State Farm MVC Championship

Defending champion Illinois State has been picked to win the 2009 State Farm MVC Women’s Golf Championship, according to a pre-championship poll of league coaches. The Redbirds, led by second-year coach Darby Sligh, narrowly edged Drake in the voting.

Place   Team (1st-place votes)  Points 
   1   Illinois State (8)    98
   2   Drake (2)    91
   3   Missouri State    77
   4   Bradley    72
   5   Southern Illinois    53
   6   UNI    47
   7   Wichita State    40
   8   Indiana State    37
   9   Creighton    19
 10   Evansville    16

Illinois State, with 98 points and eight first-place votes, was a narrow favorite over tournament host Drake (91 points and two first place votes), while Missouri State and Bradley were picked to battle over the third-place spot as the Bears received 77 points to Bradley's 72. 

Drake's Olivia Lansing led the Missouri Valley Conference in stroke average during the season, carding a 75.3 average through 24 rounds, which included three tournament wins.  Illinois State's Stacey Miller, meanwhile, also had two medalist honors and has a 76.9 stroke average.  Missouri State's Catherine Dolan had the best stroke average of any first-year golfer in the MVC, as she averaged 77.9 through 27 rounds this year, while two Bradley players also finished among the top 10 in stroke average:  Bari Erais (77.91) and Kelly Amundrud (77.95).

Southern Illinois was picked to finish fifth in the poll, and the Salukis were also led by a first-year player this year as Alisha Matthews had SIU's best stroke average, carding a 79.0 through 21 rounds.  The Salukis received 53 points in the poll, narrowly finishing ahead of UNI (47), Wichita State (40), and Indiana State (37).  Creighton (19) and Evansville (16) round out the poll.  The race for the title figures to be close once again, as six of the past eight championships have been decided by less than 10 strokes.

Illinois State owns the top average score per round (311.6), just ahead of Drake (314.5). Drake won three tournament titles this year, while Illinois State, Bradley, and UNI also won an event.

Drake University and Lake Panorama National Resort will host this year's championship.  The tournament is Friday-Sunday, April 17-19.  Teams will play 18 holes each day, beginning at 8 a.m. each day.

Last year, Illinois State (941) won its league-record ninth title, and first since 2005, with an 11-shot victory over defending champion Southern Illinois (952). The Redbirds, who had four players in the top-11, were led by first-year coach Darby Sligh, who earned Coach of the Year honors.  The 2008 State Farm MVC Women's Golf Championship was Sunday-Tuesday, April 13-15, at Oak Hills Country Club in Omaha, Neb.