UCLA, California qualify for the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship
The NCAA West Regional was nothing more than a pop quiz for UCLA and California.
You might say they passed.
The Pac-10 powers steamrolled past the rest of the field to qualify for the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship May 18-21 in Opelika, Ala.
The Bruins, No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, finished the 54-hole event May 8 as the only team below par at 3-under 861. California, ranked third, was seven shots back at 868.
Tournament-host Stanford used the home-course advantage to record its best 54-hole score of the year at 883 to place third. Washington sophomore Paige Mackenzie posted a 5-under 67 – the day’s best score – to propel the fourth-place Huskies to a final round-best 3-under 285.
Rounding out the top eight and advancing to the NCAA Championship were Georgia, Ohio State, Arizona State and Texas, which edged Washington State and Oregon in a playoff for the final spot.
The Longhorns, who now have a chance to keep their top-3 streak at the NCAA finals alive, were 2 under in the playoff, while Washington State was even and Oregon finished at 1 over.
Elizabeth Allen of CSU-Northridge and Ashley Gomes of San Jose State advanced to the finals as individuals.
UCLA freshman Hannah Jun captured the individual title after three consecutive sub-par rounds, finishing at 7-under 209.
Jun, who placed second at the Pac-10 Championship and was named the league’s newcomer of the year, earned her first college victory.
Ohio State’s Allison Hanna placed second at 211, followed by UCLA’s Charlotte Mayorkas and California’s Anna Temple at 214.
Now comes the real test for the Bruins and Bears: Finding a way to defeat No. 1 Duke.
UCLA is 0-2 against the Blue Devils this season, including a 26-shot defeat at the NCAA Fall Preview, which was played in September at Grand National’s Lake Course. But the Bruins have improved since then.
“We are ready to play nationals,” said UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth, whose team has won five of its last six tournaments. “We are ready and peaking at the right time.”
California is more than ready to make up for last year’s NCAA showing. A year ago, the Bears entered their first NCAA Championship with high expectations, but struggled to a tie for 14th.
“I have chills thinking about it,” said California coach Nancy McDaniel. “The last day at nationals last year was so painful. We are really excited and we can only get better at nationals.”
The Bears also finished runner-up to the Bruins at the Pac-10 Championship, but the approach they took at regionals was not just to survive.
“We went about it like we really want to compete against the top teams,” McDaniel said. “We haven’t been able to stay with UCLA as much as we’d like, but they have made us a better team – and playing with UCLA this week has really helped us.”