2003: Duke, Cal, USC lead East-West showdown for crown
If regional results are any indication of what to expect at next week’s NCAA Division I Women’s Championship, then all arrows point to a shoreline showdown.
With Duke dominating the East Regional for the fourth consecutive year and California schools claiming the Central and West titles, an East-West rivalry is in full swing.
Duke’s first-place showing May 10 in Clemmons, N.C., gave the Blue Devils five victories in six tournaments this spring and extends their winning streak to four as they head to Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex in West Lafayette, Ind., May 20-23.
Despite losing 2001 NCAA champ Candy Hannemann, Duke coach Dan Brooks is impressed with the team’s strength. Four players return from last year’s championship squad, including junior Virada Nirapathpongporn, the reigning NCAA individual champion.
“The scoring averages on our team are between 73.4 and 74.8, so there’s about a one shot
difference between one and five,” Brooks said. “That means that any given tournament any one of the five can win it.”
Freshman Elizabeth Janangelo took Hannemann’s place in the lineup and made an immediate impact, winning the Tar Heel Invitational and Liz Murphy Collegiate. Janangelo hit a dry spell in the spring, however, tying for 36th at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic and tying for 37th at the Lady Gamecock Classic.
It wasn’t until weeks later that Janangelo was diagnosed with mononucleosis, but she now is back to 100 percent.
“That was interesting now that I look back at it and I realize that I really did have it because I was falling asleep in golf carts in Puerto Rico,” said Janangelo, who shot 71-72-74–217 to tie for 14th at the East Regional. “I think that really hit me hard and affected the scores, but that just makes somebody stronger.”
Nirapathpongporn and her teammates are eager to show Janangelo the championship ropes.
“At this point I think we’re right on track,” Nirapathpongporn said. “We still have four more days to go of competitive golf so we want to just finish the job.”
Brooks said his team had the opportunity to learn a lot from last year’s experience. Down two strokes to Arizona with three holes to play, the Blue Devils made five birdies on Nos. 16-18 to pull away from the field and win by six.
“The opportunities were that no matter what’s going on, no matter how much you’re behind and how long you’re behind, if you keep your chin up and you stay excited to play, you can win,” Brooks said.
Other teams riding momentum into nationals include the University of California and Southern California.
California has collected a school-record seven titles this season and took command of the Central Regional, trouncing Kent State by 20 strokes. Not bad for a team that had no NCAA postseason experience prior to 2000.
The Golden Bears are led by senior Vikki Laing, the Pac-10 individual champion and Central Regional runner-up, and junior Sarah Huarte.
In the West Regional, Southern California placed three players in the top eight and cruised to a
10-shot victory over Oklahoma State. The Trojans jumped out quickly, shooting a Karsten Golf Course and school-record 9-under 279 during the first round in Arizona and never relinquished
“This is our second regional win,” said USC coach Andrea Gaston, whose team also won in 1998. “This is nothing but a confidence booster for us as a team as we head into nationals. This is the time to peak.”
The senior tandem of Mikaela Parmlid and Becky Lucidi have combined for seven top-five
finishes and have led the Trojans to three team titles.
Pepperdine, another strong member of the California contingent, notched five consecutive victories through the West Coast Conference Championship, and boast All-Americans Katherine Hull and Lindsey Wright, ranked Nos. 2 and 4, respectively.
Hull has captured four individual titles this year and Wright has recorded eight top 10s. Freshman Carolina Llano joined Pepperdine in the fall and wasted no time making an impact, posting three top-10 performances, including the individual conference crown. Pepperdine finished fourth in the West.
Tournament-host Purdue, which advanced through the Central region, will hold a slight home-course advantage against the 24-team field.
“I think our team can be a factor, although we will have to play better than we have the last month,” said Purdue coach Devon Brouse. “We haven’t really played up to our potential yet.”
Brouse said the Kampen Course, recently renovated by architect Pete Dye, will demand solid ball-striking as the rough is longer than what teams faced at the NCAA Preview last fall.
“The one thing about our golf course that will definitely come out is that it will separate the teams who are playing well from those who are so-so,” Brouse said. “It’s a good, fair test of golf. I think we’ll have a true champion.”
Arizona bounced back from last year’s NCAA by winning September’s Preview by three strokes over Oklahoma State. Senior Miriam Kraschinski took home the individual title with a 1-under 215 total.
As the year wore on, however, the Wildcats failed to secure another title as they finished runner-up three times. But with three seniors making the trip to Indiana as well as standout freshman Erica Blasberg, Arizona is looking to end its year the same way it began.
– Lance Ringler contributed