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Illinois men’s golf loses in NCAA quarterfinals

Another trip to match play in the NCAA men’s golf championships ended without a national title for Illinois.

Coach Mike Small’s Illini – who earned the No. 1 seed by finishing 16 shots out of the field after 72 holes of stroke play – lost 3-1 to eighth-seeded Georgia Tech on Tuesday morning in Carlsbad, California.

Max Herendeen, who tied for second in the individual competition on Monday, was the only Illinois player to win his match, recording the first point of the day with a 5-on-4 loss to Carson Kim.

But the Yellow Jackets won the match with victories by Bartley Forrester over Tyler Goecke (3 and 1), Aidan Tran over Piercen Hunt (3 and 2) and NCAA individual champion Hiroshi Tai over Ryan Voois (3 and 2). That made Jackson Buchanan’s match against Georgia Tech’s Kale Fontenot moot.

“For whatever reason, we have lost our way and started leading the way and worrying about things,” Small said in a news release. “I think a lot of our guys fell back on some of the tendencies that they got better at all spring, and I think under the pressure and stress, they fell back on some of those things.

“Halfway through we were in control of the game and the back nine is one we were looking after all week, so maybe the pressure got to them and maybe they were ahead and thinking about the outcome for some reason.”

This was the ninth time Illinois has qualified for match play since the current format was adopted in 2009, and the Illini have reached the NCAA championships 17 times and won 13 Big Ten titles in Small’s 25 years in charge. But they are still looking for the program’s first national championship.

Georgia Tech advanced to a semifinal later Tuesday against No. 5 seed Florida State, a 3-1 winner over fourth-seeded North Carolina.

No. 6 seed Auburn faced No. 7 Ohio State in the other semifinal, as all four quarterfinals were won by the lower seed. The Tigers defeated third-seeded Virginia 3-1, while the Buckeyes advanced with a 3-1-1 win over second-seeded Vanderbilt.

The championship match is Wednesday at La Costa (6 p.m. CDT, Golf Channel).

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