‘We’re not done yet’: Kent State, the lone mid-major at the women’s NCAA Championship, is confident and ready to go

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — They’ve won 22 consecutive conference championships. This year marks the fourth straight season—and eighth overall—of reaching the NCAA Championship. They’re not unfamiliar with being highly ranked in the polls and taking down Power 5 teams.

As the only mid-major to reach the 2021 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, the Kent State Golden Flashes are geared up to once again play on the biggest stage.

“I talk to them all the time, I say ‘We treat you like a Power 5,'” said Kent State head coach Lisa Strom after a practice round on Thursday at Grayhawk Golf Club. “Our program is based on a national schedule, we’re gearing towards a national championship, we’re not selling ourselves short by any means. We have the resources and the support from everybody at home to do that. And that’s how we treat our players and our program. We do things first class all the way.”

Kent State is one of 24 teams in Scottsdale for the first of three straight NCAAs at Grayhawk. The Golden Flashes punched their ticket after finishing in a tie for fifth in the Columbus regional, which was played on the Scarlet Course at Ohio State. It didn’t take long after that for it to sink in that they were headed back to the national championship.

“Finishing up in the Columbus regional, I’ll say it hit us,” Strom said. “It didn’t surprise us but I think it firmly established the spot we’re in, and I think that’s huge for their confidence.

“We’ve worked hard. We’re up in northeastern Ohio and we’re kind of a little forgotten spot but it’s college golf and we have to earn everything. I tell them that all the time, I say ‘No one’s going to hand them anything.'”

“We’re here. We’re just as good as anybody else,” said Emily Price, a junior who transferred from South Carolina. “Winning the tournaments we have, winning the conference 22 times in a row, then getting through regionals and beating some other good teams, I think we deserve the spot we’re in.”

Kent State will start alongside Texas and Maryland on the first tee Friday. With a 6:30 a.m. (Arizona) tee time. Even that doesn’t faze this squad.

“Oh, I love it. This heat? Get me out early,” Price said. “I’ve been waking up a little bit earlier than usual anyway so it’s nothing. Get me up before it’s too hot. I’m good with that.”

Strom agreed and noted the time change works in their favor, too.

“The 6:30 tee time, we gotta be ready to go,” she said. “Traveling from the East Coast helps. But for us, the first thing I thought of is, ‘Wow, our players get to hit the first tee shots of the national championship.'”

It’s been since 1992 when San Jose State won that a non-Power 5 program took home the NCAA title.

This Kent State squad might be the next.

“We’re on a good run,” Strom said. “It’s how they take care of their business, how they handle themselves, they do it in a very professional way. They work hard and they deserve all that credit that they’ve got yet.

“But we’re not done yet. They’re hungry for it.”

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These are the 24 teams, 12 individuals heading to NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship