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Courtesy: Eric Francis

Women's Golf Picked Ninth In Pre-Championship Poll

Missouri State has been picked to win the 2012 State Farm MVC Women's Golf Championship, according to a pre-championship poll of league coaches. The Bears, who last won an MVC women's golf title in 2001, will be looking to unseat four-time defending champion Illinois State.

The 54-hole tournament will be played at The Country Club of Terre Haute on April 22-24. The team champion advances to the NCAA Regionals. The 10 teams will have practice rounds Saturday, and the tournament begins Sunday at 8:30 a.m. (ET). Teams will play 18 holes each day (Sunday-Tuesday). Fans are invited to attend free of charge.

Last year, Illinois State fired a two-round rain-shortened tournament total of 305-292=597 to outdistance second-place Wichita State as the Shockers totaled 312-304=616 for its best finish since taking second place back in 1999. Pre-championship favorite Missouri State was right behind as the Bears placed third with a two-round 617.

No.   Team (1st-Place Tallies   Total Points 
1  Missouri State (10)  100
2  Wichita State 79
3  Southern Illinois 78
4  Illinois State 72
5  Northern Iowa 67
6  Indiana State 51
7  Bradley 42
8  Drake 26
9  Creighton 20
10  Evansville 15

Missouri State received all 10 first-place votes and 100 total points to outdistance Wichita State in the voting. The Shockers received 79 total points. Southern Illinois was third with 78 points, and four-time defending champion Illinois State was close behind with 72 points. UNI rounded out the teams picked for the upper division with 67 points.

Indiana State (51) and Bradley (42) were close in total points for the sixth and seventh spots in the poll, while Drake (26), Creighton (20) and Evansville (15) rounded out the voting.

Last season marked the first championship since 2003 in which the pre-champion favorite failed to win the title. From 2003-10 (Bradley beat Illinois State in 2003 on the first hole of a sudden death playoff), seven-straight teams picked to win the State Farm MVC Women's Championship ended up winning the championship. Notably, Missouri State is the first unanimous pre-championship selection in women's golf since 2005 (Illinois State).

Missouri State's Kelsey Welber led the MVC in stroke average during the regular season, clocking in at 75.62 through 26 rounds, with one medalist honor. Gretchen Huhnerkoch of Wichita State is next, finishing the year with a 75.85 stroke average, through 27 rounds. A total of 11 players won individual medalist honors this season, including a pair (Brittany Atterbury of UNI and Margaret Gilley of Southern Illinois) who won two tournaments.

Missouri State enters the tournament as the league's top-rated team in the GolfStat team head-to-head team ratings. Southern is second in the ratings. The Salukis have the most team titles of any league school, with four, while Missouri State and UNI are tied for the second-most team championships this year, as both have won two tournaments in 2011-12.

Creighton has finished ninth in the MVC Championships each of the past two years. The 2011-12 Bluejay squad is led by junior Celeste Gassman, who averages 79.5 strokes per round.

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