CHESTERTON, Indiana — Two years after finishing at the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Drake University women's golf team is 18 holes away from finishing a worst-to-first journey of epic proportions at the MVC Championship.
And two Wisconsin golfers did much of the heavy lifting Monday to get the Bulldogs to the top of the leaderboard.
Junior Aimee Gerschke of South Milwaukee shot 75-74 and senior Grace Dunn of Brookfield shot 75-76, her two lowest rounds of the season, at Sand Creek Country Club as Drake opened the 54-hole championship by shooting 301-297 and, with a 598 total, grabbing a one stroke lead over Southern Illinois entering Tuesday's final round.
Due to inclement weather Sunday, the teams played two rounds Monday. Gerschke finished the marathon day in a tie for eighth place, three shots behind co-leaders Thilda Staubo of Indiana State and Sydney Eaton of Northern Iowa, while Dunn was tied for 11th at 151.
Former Kettle Moraine High School golfer Abby Cavaiani of Wales, a freshman at Missouri State, shot 75-72 and was tied for third place at 147. Former Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels golfer Lorenza Martinez, a freshman at Loyola-Chicago, had a share of the lead after an opening 72, but struggled to a 79 in the second round and fell into a tie for 11th.
"The leaderboard is really tight and it's still anyone's to win," said Bulldogs coach Rachel Pruett, the architect of building her program into a title contender. "It's going to be fun out there tomorrow and we look forward to competing."
The strong opening day put the Bulldogs in position to win the team's MVC title since the program's start in 2007. The team has finished second or better in the event twice in its history, but not since 2010.
"Whatever happens, I'm so proud of all the work the team has put in and how they have pushed each other to be better," Pruett added.
The Bulldogs' final round starts Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. CT with live results available via Golfstat.com