The Redbirds will look to win their sixth Valley championship in the last seven years
Illinois State's juniors led the team the entire way
Illinois State's juniors took charge in this opening round
Leading the Redbirds will be seniors Rachel Powers and Jordyn Wyzgowski, along with juniors Brianna Cooper, Hayley Guyton and Lauren English.
Head coach Darby Sligh is looking forward to her team getting back on the field and regaining its momentum after the18th-place finish at the Rio Verde Invitational.
2012 Redbird Invitational
In every stage of her head coaching career, Darby Sligh has demonstrated the ability to produce championship-caliber success in a short period of time. Sligh is entering her seventh year as the Illinois State head women's golf coach, having won five MVC Championships along with five automatic berths into NCAA Regionals in her tenure and four-consecutive MVC Coach of the Year awards (2008-11).
During the 2012-13 season, Sligh coached a seasoned Illinois State team to a Missouri Valley Conference Championship and an appearance in the 2013 NCAA Central Regional. The squad, led by then-senior Katie Jean, who earned individual medalist honors for the second-straight season, captured the MVC title after an exceptional season. With Sligh at the helm, Jean was also named Golfer of the Year and had an unprecedented five MVC Golfer of the week honors.
As the 2011-12 season progressed, Sligh received great play from her squad, as Jean and Brianna Cooper, who were both named to the Valley's All-Conference Team, led the Redbirds to a second-place finish at the MVC Championship. Jean played her best golf of the season and was able to secure individual medalist honors.
After an impressive start to the 2010-11 season, the Redbirds began to falter in the rankings and had their share of mid-season struggles. Sligh was able to coach the team to their fourth-consecutive MVC Championship title and was named MVC Coach of the Year for the fourth-straight year, adding two more all-conference student-athletes to her sterling record as well, with Cooper and Miller receiving the honors. The Redbirds also had the honor of representing the Missouri Valley Conference in the 2011 NCAA Central Regional.
The 2009-10 season was another great success for the Sligh, as well as the Illinois State women's golf team. Sligh was awarded her third MVC Coach of the Year honor, as the Redbirds placed in the top-10 in nine of the ten events they participated in, along with four top-five finishes. Sligh led the Illinois State to the title at the MVC Championship Tournament where Laura Harris, Miller and Marisa Milligan came in second, third and fourth place, respectively. Four of the five players that competed in the conference tournament were named to the All-Valley team.
Throughout the 2008-09 season, Sligh's dedication, passion and love for the game led her to be named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year and produce three All-MVC selections. The `Birds won the 2009 MVC Championship, where Miller captured the individual title. Sligh led the team to its second-consecutive postseason appearance in the NCAA Central Regional. Sligh's commitment to success for her players was evident when the team achieved a record team grade-point average of 3.58, had two players named to the MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team, nine student-athletes on the AFNI Athletics Honor Roll and three National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) Academic All-Scholars.
The 2007-08 season made for an impressive first year at Illinois State for Sligh. She led the youthful Redbirds to a Missouri Valley Conference Championship and an appearance in the NCAA Central Regional at the University of Texas Golf Club in Austin, Texas. Sligh was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year and had two players named to the All-MVC team. Milligan was named to the all-conference team and MVC Newcomer of the Year, while Miller was named to the MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team and also named to the all-conference squad. Sligh also had five players named to the MVC Honor Roll and four NGCA Academic All-Scholars.
Sligh is no stranger to successful seasons as a head coach. After graduating from Alabama, Sligh was named head women's golf coach at Newberry College in Newberry, S.C. In just two years at the helm of the Newberry women's golf team, Sligh was able to produce a 2007 South Atlantic Conference Championship, win league coach of the year honors (2007) and have six players named to the All-SAC team.
Sligh had an impressive list of collegiate honors and athletic achievements as a student-athlete at Alabama. She was named to the All-Southeastern Conference Second Team following the 2003-04 season, and in 2002-04, Sligh was a member of the Academic All-SEC team. In 2004, she was named the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Sligh was the Crimson Tide's co-captain from 2002-05. During her collegiate career, Sligh had nine top-10 finishes, including two wins.