Progression is Tangible as Lumberjacks Close Out Rio Verde Tourney

NAU's Sofia Anokhina & Graduate Assistant Coach Langley Vannoy
NAU's Sofia Anokhina & Graduate Assistant Coach Langley Vannoy
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RIO VERDE, Ariz.Sofia Anokhina has opened her sophomore spring campaign with a tournament victory and now a third-place finish as the Northern Arizona University golf team wrapped up play from the Rio Verde Invitational Sunday afternoon. 

As a team, the Lumberjacks turned in a three-round total of 40-over-par 904 score (14-over 302 today) to finish in sixth place. Winning the tournament was Eastern Michigan, followed by second place Northern Illinois, third place Missouri-Kansas City, fourth place Central Arkansas and fifth place Wichita State.

"Definitely a lot more consistency up and down the line up at this tournament, and every golfer showed glimpses of the greatness they're capable of," said Head Coach Brad Bedortha. "A lot of good things came from our players this weekend, and we look forward to utilizing those lessons in order to improve next time out."

For Anokhina, she could not have asked for a better start to her season as the native of Moscow, Russia, is now averaging a round score of 72.16 though six rounds in 2017.

Today was not her best day by her standards, opening with a single and a double bogey within the first three holes, but remained composed as she finished out her round with three birdies and a 1-over 73 mark. For the weekend, Anokhina finished third on the individual leaderboard with a 1-over 217 tally—just a mere two strokes off the winning scorecard.

"[Anokhina] continues to look very impressive," said Bedortha. "She double-bogeyed No. 5 but it was because of a bad break, honestly. She hit the fairway, but they could find the ball so she had to take a two-stroke penalty. All in all, though, she played beautifully the rest of the round and really the entire weekend." 

Senior Kim Cifuentes and Carly Akine also had good afternoons of play in Rio Verde, registering 4-over 76 marks during the final 18 holes of play. Cifuentes tapped in for birdie four times Sunday and tied for 21st on the leaderboard with a weekend tally of 9-over 225.

Akine, to her credit, finished in a tie for 47th place with a 54-hole total of 15-over 231.

"[Cifuentes] really finished out this tournament on the right foot," said Graduate Assistant Coach Langley Vannoy. "She is the leader of this team and proved that yesterday and today. She struggled in the middle part of the round today, but went 2-under on her final five holes which was great to see." 

Junior Sierra Bezdicek was arguably NAU's best golfer through the first two rounds of play from Rio Verde, but the Lumberjack scoring as an individual this weekend stumbled a bit in the third round. She still managed to piece together a top-11 finish, though, which is encouraging to see as we inch closer to Big Sky's in April. Overall, Bezdicek logged a 6-over 222 for the tournament.

"This tournament was definitely a step in the right direction for [Bezdicek]," said Bedortha. "It's great for her to compete the way she did, and she's pushing the other players to play at their best. For us to continue to get better we're going to need those kind of performances from her."

Kaitlyn Saum (17-over 233), Loren Skibba (19-over 235) and Emma Reyes (21-over 237) also turned in scorecards this weekend for the 'Jacks.

"Everyone is slowly but steadily getting better," said Vannoy. "If we can continue to progress like this, our team is going to be just fine." 

The NAU golf team is back to the grind this upcoming weekend, March 4-5, as it hosts the 2017 Red Rocks Invitational in Sedona, Ariz. That tournament will play three rounds, with the first 36 taking place Saturday and the remaining 18 on Sunday.

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