Hayesville, N.C. - With a pair of golfers inside the individual top 10, Western Carolina sits in second place after 18 holes at its home tournament -- the Bill Berg Invitational -- which opened Sunday at The Ridges Country Club. The Catamounts carded a team score of 299 to sit a stroke off the pace set by another Purple & Gold clad squad, the James Madison Dukes.
Mirroring the team standings, it is JMU's Laura Gomez who holds a stroke advantage over WCU sophomore Natalia Villavicencio in the chase for individual medalist honors. Gomez posted a tourney-high tying four birdies as a part of a 2-under par round of 70, while Villavicencio countered a trio of bogies with two birdies and one of just three eagles in the opening round for a 1-under, 71.
The two atop the leaderboard were the only golfers in the 66-golfer field to post rounds under-par on Sunday. They both sit ahead of a four-way tie for third at 1-over par, 73.
Eastern Kentucky posted a round of even-300 on Sunday to sit two strokes in arrears of James Madison in third place, followed by Marshall (302) and Appalachian State (304) to round out the top five. A trio of Big South foes -- Presbyterian (307), Gardner-Webb (308) and UNC Asheville (313) rank sixth through eighth followed by Wofford (314) and Longwood (316) to close out the top 10. Rounding out the 12-team field is UNCG (317) and Radford (327).
Sporting the October Breast Cancer Awareness pink golf shirts on Sunday, the Catamounts' Villavicencio posted 12 pars including seven on the front nine, countering a bogey on the par-4 second with an eagle on the par-5 ninth to make the turn at 1-under. Back-to-back bogies on No. 10 and 11 relegated her to 1-over for the round before two consecutive birdies on the 14th and 15th returned her to 1-under. The Santiago, Chile, native tallied three-straight pars to close the round a stroke off the lead.
Catamount senior Ashley Thompson turned in a strong opening round, sitting amidst a tie for seventh-place with a 2-over par round of 74. The Clyde, N.C., product had a mostly quiet round with 13 pars, countering a pair of bogies with two birdies. The only other blemish was a double-bogey on the par-4 12th that resulted in the 2-over round.
Junior transfer Amanda Floberg is two-strokes back of Thompson in a tie for 16th overall after shooting 4-over par, 76, with senior Bethany Galloway (78) in a tie for 27th and junior Alyssa Morahan (80) tied for 41st after the first round. Floberg posted 10 pars on Sunday to go along with a pair of birdies for the Catamounts. Galloway posted eight pars on the back nine after a 4-over turn, while Morahan birdied twice on Sunday.
Playing unattached as an individual, freshman Brianna Plummer sits in a two-way tie for 60th after shooting 87 in the first round. The Shelby, N.C., native carded three birdies on Sunday in just her third career collegiate round.
Round two of the 54-hole event gets underway with set tee times off both the front and back nine beginning at 9:00 am. Paired with both JMU and third-place Eastern Kentucky, WCU's scoring five hits the course on the front nine beginning at 9:40 am on Monday. Live scoring of the event is available online through BirdieFire.com, and a complete recap with results will be made available online at CatamountSports.com.