Freshman Brooke Cusumano shot her fourth-consecutive 77 on Sunday.
April 6, 2014
By Tyler Wooten
PEKIN, Ill. -- Saluki women's golf came back from a three-stroke deficit entering the final round to claim its second consecutive tournament victory in as many weeks at the Bradley Invitational on Sunday, pushing its season total now to four wins.
Southern entered the final round in third place and down three strokes to then-leader Butler, but was able to improve on its Day One score by one stroke while Butler and then-second place Indiana State both slipped in the second round. The Salukis replicated its performance last week at the Saluki Invitational exactly by shooting a first-round 309 and a second-round 308 to get a 36-hole total of 617 for victory.
The win is not only SIU's second in a row, but it is also its fourth in 2013-14 -- the most tournament wins in a single season since SIU head coach Alexis Mihelich won four during her first season in 2011-12. In just three seasons at the helm, Mihelich has already accrued nine tournament wins.
Leading the way for SIU once again was senior Ashleigh Rushing, who shot another 76 in the second round for a 36-hole total of 152 -- good for a tie for fifth place overall. Rushing has now shot in the 70s in four consecutive rounds and six of her last seven. Her twin sister, Cassie Rushing, also followed up with another round in the 70s on Sunday with a second-round 78, which tied her for ninth overall at 155.
Southern's freshmen came through big again with another solid performance this weekend and two 77s on Sunday. Brooke Cusumano shot her fourth consecutive 77 on Sunday, pushing her two-round total to 154 and a slot in eighth place overall -- her second consecutive top-10 finish individually. Xianmei Jin improved two strokes from Saturday to Sunday with a 77 of her own, which put her in a tie for 13th place at 156.
"This tournament the freshmen proved they can play under pressure and the seniors had solid, consistent performances, so we didn't falter," Mihelich said.
Junior Kris Grimes (tied for 28th, 161) shot in the 80s for only the second time in her last three tournaments, but was able to improve with an 80 on Sunday to keep Southern on top of the leaderboard at the end.
"We didn't lose it," Mihelich said. "We played our games and at the end of the tournament it was good enough to win by two."
SIU beat out five other other Missouri Valley Conference schools on Sunday, which should prove valuable in two weeks time when Southern will try for its first MVC title since 2007 at the MVC Championships in Springfield, Ill., on April 20-22 -- hosted by Bradley.
"This win is good momentum for the upcoming conference tournament," Mihelich said. "The next two weeks are all about preparing for conference -- giving 100 percent and having no regrets."
Before that, though, is one final tuneup: a one-day dual-match with Murray State at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Sunday, April 13.
1. Southern Illinois: 309-308 (617)
2. Butler: 306-313 (619)
3. Northern Illinois: 314-308 (622)
4. Indiana State: 308-319 (627)
5. Northern Iowa: 311-320 (631)
6. Bradley: 319-315 (634)
T7. Loyola: 310-325 (635)
T7. Evansville: 315-320 (635)
9. Western Illinois: 326-319 (645)
10. Illinois-Chicago: 338-338 (676)