The Penn State golf course will host the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships after hosting the Penn State National Open and the Spiked Shoe Invitational earlier this season. In 2017, this race was controlled by the Nittany Lions as they scored 31 points to easily clinch their spot to Nationals. The Villanova Wildcats earned the second automatic spot at NCAA's last year with 60 points. Heading into this weekend, those two teams look poised to earn trips to NCAA's again.
The Villanova Wildcats are the class of the field in the Mid-Atlantic and have only impressed in their four races this season. The Wildcats swept the Main Line Invitational in early September, finished 4th at the Nuttycombe Invitational in the deepest race of the year, and easily won the Princeton Invitational to close out a dominant regular season campaign. The BIG East Championships were simply another opportunity to showcase their dominance as they placed six in the top eight to score 21 points. The Wildcats are the TSR #7 team in the nation and earning a top two placing should pose no difficulty.
What’s incredible about this Villanova team is how much they have evolved from 2017. With all five of their regional scorers returning, only two have entered the scoring five in 2018. Last year, the Wildcats were lead by Junior Bella Burda who won the regional title. Burda has returned in 2018, but has yet to make an impact, as she was the 8th Wildcat across the line at BIG East's. If Burda does race this weekend, she could still make a huge impact if she returns to her top form.
Caroline Alcorta is one of the new faces for 'Nova after transferring from North Carolina after graduation. Alcorta has led the Wildcats all year and recently won her first conference title.
The two main returners from 2017 are Rachel McArthur and Nicole Hutchinson. McArthur placed 2nd close behind Alcorta at BIG East's after a 29th place finish at Nuttycombe. Hutchinson placed 11th at Nuttycombe, but was 5th at the conference meet. Hutchinson should rebound and keep up with the duo of McArthur and Alcorta.
Finalizing the top five have been freshmen Taryn O’Neill and Lydia Olivere. Lauren Ryan was also been a top three athlete for the Wildcats after a 3rd place at the Princeton Invitational.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are the favorites for the second automatic qualifying spot out of the Mid-Atlantic. The TSR #14 ranked squad placed 4th at the BIG 10 Championships in Nebraska after winning their home Penn State National Open meet against TSR #9 Michigan State. Penn State cemented their national ranking after a 13th place finish at the Nuttycombe Invitational.
Julia Paternain is the top runner for Penn State this season and has won both races on her home course this season. That could be an important factor as regionals is also on the Nittany Lions home course.
Returning from 2017 are Mid-Atlantic 5th and 6th place finishers, Alison Willingmyre and Kathryn Munks. Both are consistent low-sticks for the Lions, especially at home. Mid-distance specialist Danae Rivers has also come up big for PSU after a 14th place finish at BIG 10's. She was 8th in the region last year.
An X-factor for the Nittany Lions could be Elizabeth Chikotas who has not raced since Nuttycombe, where she placed 134th. At her best, Chikotas placed 15th at NCAA's in 2016 and could be an additional low-stick that will allow Penn State to challenge the Wildcats.
There’s a rather large gap between the top two in the Mid-Atlantic and the rest of the teams, but anything can happen at a regional meet, especially with a major hill in the final mile of the course. The battle for 3rd and 4th will still be important as teams attempt to gain At-large qualification to the national meet.
When you think about the Mid-Atlantic, the first league you think about is the BIG 12...right? No? Either way, the West Virginia Mountaineers will represent the BIG 12 as one of the top challengers to Penn State and Villanova after placing 4th at their conference meet. The Mountaineers also finished 6th at the Penn State National Open. Leading the Mountaineers has been Hayley Jackson who placed 8th at the BIG 12 meet and 13th at Penn State. Olivia Hill and freshman Charlotte Wood were the next two across the line in Ames as they cracked the top 20 in 18th and 19th. West Virginia was 7th at regionals in 2017.
Perhaps a more conventional Mid-Atlantic conference is the Ivy League who sport their own challenger, Princeton. The Tigers were 4th at this meet a year ago and will look to improve their standing in 2018. The Princeton campaign began with a win at the Loyola Lakefront Invitational over D2 Grand Valley St. and Ohio State. They also ran at the Penn State National Open and placed 4th, 40 points over West Virginia, but 120 points behind the Nittany Lions. Princeton also finished 3rd at the Ivy League Championships.
Princeton’s top 2017 runner Gabrielle Forrest has yet to appear for the Tigers in 2018, but could be an important factor to consider after placing 3rd last year. Melia Chittenden should lead the way for the Ivy League squad after an 8th place finish at the Ivy League Championships. Princeton did get an early season victory over Yale at H-Y-P and that could come into play should other regionals go the Tigers’ way. Allie Klimkiewicz, Alie Fordyce, and Madison Offstein could also make a difference for the New Jersey based squad.
The third conference sporting a legitimate challenger is the BIG East with the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas finished a distant 2nd to Villanova at the conference meet and have been defeated by Penn State three times this season. Georgetown also finished 3rd at the Spiked Shoe Invitational and 13th at the Penn State National Open. With an underwhelming 25th place finish at the Nuttycombe Invitational, it's fair to say that this team is definitely on the outside looking in.
Paige Hofstad should compete for a top individual finish this weekend after a 3rd place finish at the BIG East's. She also finished 32nd at the Nuttycombe Invitational and should be considered a top 75 runner in the nation. Hofstad’s two races at PSU have been her slowest this season, so look for her to turn that around. Maggie Cullen could also be an important scorer for the Hoyas.
There are a few other squads could challenge for the top five. Temple lost a tight battle at the American Conference championships behind Wichita State and Tulsa. They also finished 3rd at the Princeton Invitational behind TSR#7 Villanova and TSR#22 Columbia.
The Owls will rely on a tight 1-5 pack to challenge for a top four position. Patriot League champion Bucknell is led by Colleen Buckley. Buckley finished 25th at the Penn State Open while the team finished 20th overall. The Penn Quakers will also look to improve upon their 6th place finish at regionals last year. Penn finished last in the Ivy League, but placed 17th at the Penn State National Open. The Quakers are led by Danielle Orie who is one of the top individual returners from the 2017 championship. Orie placed 25th in the Ivy League Championships, but is on the upward swing after struggling through the middle of the season. Maddie Villalba has also run well for the Quakers.
Team qualifiers are not the only thing on the line this weekend as the top four individuals not on a national qualifying team will also earn a trip to Madison. While many of the individuals above will also challenge for the top slots, there are some other names to watch for as they try to enter the top 20 in the region.
Georgetown’s Martha McDonald placed 9th at this meet in 2017 and earned an individual qualification to NCAA's that year. However, she has only run once in 2018, a 206th place finish at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational.
Kelly Hayes ran unattached for Pittsburgh at the Penn State National Open to place 20th. She did not run at ACC's so it would be highly unlikely to see her at regionals, but anything is possible. Her teammate Sam Shields placed 16th at the ACC Championships in Boston and will likely lead the PA squad.
Grace Mancini is La Salle’s top runner. She placed 6th in the Atlantic-10 Conference meet.
In addition to Colleen Buckley, Adriana Hooks of American and Grace West of Navy could represent the Patriot League towards the top of the standings after placing 3rd and 4th in their league. West was 20th at the Paul Short Gold meet while Hooks was 30th.
1. Caroline Alcorta (Villanova)
2. Julia Paternaian (Penn State)
3. Rachel McArthur (Villanova)
4. Nicole Hutchinson (Villanova)
5. Paige Hofstad (Georgetown)
6. Alison Willingmyre (Penn State)
7. Danae Rivers (Penn State)
8. Lydia Olivere (Villanova)
9. Kathryn Munks (Penn State)
10. Taryn O’Neill (Villanova)
11. Melia Crittenden (Princeton)
12. Hayley Jackson (West Virginia)
13. Ann Campbell (Villanova)
14. Lauren Ryan (Villanova)
15. Olivia Hill (West Virginia)
16. Colleen Buckley (Bucknell)
17. Sam Shields (Pittsburgh)
18. Moria O’Shea (Penn State)
19. Madison Offstein (Princeton)
20. Maggie Cullen (Georgetown)
1. Villanova 26
2. Penn State 41
3. Princeton 110
4. West Virginia 127
5. Georgetown 144
6. Temple 145
Villanova and Penn State earn the automatic team qualifiers. Villanova gives 1 Kolas point to Colorado, New Mexico, and Boise State. All three are expected to qualify automatically.
Penn State gives Kolas points to Colorado, New Mexico, Wisconsin (2 points), Michigan State (2 points), Indiana, Michigan, Iowa State, Portland, Boise State, NC State, Columbia, Villanova, and Arkansas. Wisconsin, Indiana, and Portland are the only teams not expected to earn automatic qualification and would benefit from Penn State placing 2nd. TSR projects all three to qualify in the at-large process.
Paige Hofstad (Georgetown), Melia Crittenden (Princeton), Hayley Jackson and Olivia Hill (West Virginia) would earn automatic individual qualification based on these projections.
Princeton is the first potential at-large team from the region. They have potential wins over West Virginia, Yale (2 wins), Dartmouth, and Utah. A potential win is a victory over any potential qualifying team. None of those teams are projected to qualify at this time, although there are scenarios where they could.
West Virginia is the second potential at-large team from the region. They have potential wins over Utah and Texas. Texas is projected to qualify automatically and would give West Virginia a point. Utah is not projected to qualify at this time although there are scenarios where they could.
At this point, neither Princeton nor West Virginia would be expected to qualify for Nationals.