BOULDER CITY, Nev. – Big Sky "Player of the Year" and Northern Arizona University sophomore Sofia Anokhina shot a 1-under-par 71 Saturday during second round action from 2017 conference championships and sits atop the individual leaderboard with one round remaining.
Anokhina's second round got off to a fast start, registering two birdies in the first four holes, but she proceeded to bogey four of her next five to close out the back nine at 1-over 37. As was the case yesterday, though, the Lumberjacks' No. 1 golfer rallied on the last half of the Boulder Creek Golf Course, going for a 2-under 34 score with three birdies—two of which came on No. 16 and 17. Anokhina parred No. 18 to stay at 1-under 143 for the tournament, holding a two-stroke lead on second-place Clara Moyano from Idaho.
"The back nine, for whatever reason, is just easier for me," said Anokhina. "It just really appeals to my eye. I can see my shots really well, and I know I can just lock in when I get there. It was a rollercoaster today, though. I wasn't feeling my putting and couldn't get the ball where I wanted it to go."
"For tomorrow, I'm just going to play my game and whatever happens, happens. I can't control the way other players are going to play, but obviously I'm going to do my best and control my tempo a little bit better."
As a team, the Lumberjacks shaved 13 strokes compared to Friday's first round score (28-over 313) with a 15-over 303 today. While they do find themselves 21 strokes back of first place Sacramento State and 18 strokes back of Idaho, two teams that shot even-par scores Saturday, the NAU squad (43-over 619 for the tournament) is only a mere eight strokes back of third-place Portland State.
If the Lumberjacks can carry their team progression into Sunday's third and final round, they can potential shake things up on the leaderboard and match last year's third-place finish.
"On the back nine, yes, our team played much better," said Head Coach Brad Bedortha. "On the front nine, I was a little frustrated. We weren't competing to the level we needed to. For our college players at this stage of the year to struggle the way they have is upsetting, but also good at the same time. It just provides an opportunity for me as coach to learn what things I need to get better at."
"With that said, Kaitlyn [Saum] stepped up in a big way today and shot a great round for our team," said Bedortha. "She played beautifully, and I think she only missed one green all day. For Anokhina, it was more of an up-and-down day, but finished very well and I'm really proud of her."
As Bedortha mentioned, Saum continued her great play this morning and afternoon, finishing up with an even-72 scorecard (7-over 151 through 36 holes). The biggest thing for Saum this weekend has been her ability to stay calm, cool and collected. In fact, following holes in which she records bogey or worse, Saum is at even-par.
Sitting in a tie for ninth place on the individual leaderboard right now, Saum—who has flirted with the idea of stringing together three good scorecards all spring long—appears to be on her way to achieving it at this tournament.
Graduate Assistant Coach Langley Vannoy agrees.
"[Saum] was super confident out there today," said Vannoy. "She looks like she belongs out there and had an 'I own this place' kind of mentality. It was really fun to see because I haven't seen that kind of attitude out her for a couple weeks. I think she's going to play great tomorrow."
Other scorers today for NAU included senior Kim Cifuentes out of the No. 2 slot (7-over 79 today, 18-over 162 for the tournament), Loren Skibba (9-over 81, 19-over 163) and Sierra Bezdicek (10-over 82, 29-over 173).
Those scorecards, though, are not fully indicative of the resiliency those Lumberjacks played with today. The front nine was a struggle for all three, no doubt, but their combined scorecards on the back nine Saturday tallied up at 5-over 113 with three birdies and an eagle.
Choosing not to pack it in when things went sour and continuing with the round is a level of determination the coaches want to see and exhibits an attitude they want their players to play with.
The third round of 2017 Big Sky Conference Championships will get underway tomorrow, with Bezdicek teeing off at 8:30 a.m PT. Check out our Twitter page (@NAUGolf) for updates throughout the round.