Women’s regionals answer some questions
Last Monday I posed eight questions surrounding the NCAA Women’s Regionals. Today, I supply the answers for those questions.
1.) Can someone beat the “Big Three?” Yes and no. USC and Arizona State finished 1-2 in the Central Regional and dominated that field. USC defeated Purdue, which finished third by 24 shots. Second-place ASU defeated Purdue by 16 shots. Out West, however, UCLA was beaten by Pac-10 champs Arizona by 11 shots. So, yes . . . someone can beat the “Big Three,” but with Arizona’s stellar season, is it now the “Big Four” heading to Wilmington, N.C.?
2.) Will there be a Cinderella in the East? I don’t know if South Carolina can be classified as a Cinderella, but they certainly were a pleasant surprise. The Gamecocks won a tournament for the first time since 2005 and did it over some really good teams. Duke, Auburn and Pepperdine were the favorite to win the East, South Carolina stole the show. Besides, it looked like Cinderella was out West to give San Jose State her glass slippers.
3.) Is Duke back? After going 10 under in Round 2 and claiming the top spot on the leaderboard, it looked like Duke was going to run away with the East Regional. Instead the Dukies tied for third with Auburn and finished the final round with a 12-over 300. The Blue Devils are a tough team to figure out, but knowing that they won the NCAA Preview in the fall makes me believe they will have to be considered a contender next week in Wilmington.
4.) Will a Player of the Year candidate start to take control of the race? No. Three regionals with plenty of talent spread out across the country and no one separated themselves from the pack. In the East, Cydney Clanton finished T-36 and Marina Alex finished T-9. In the Central, Jennifer Song finished T-16, ASU’s Carlota Ciganda and New Mexico’s Jodi Ewart were T-8. Out West, UCLA’s Stephanie Kono finished T-10. Those are all great finishes, but no one stepped up with a big-time win. It is clear now that the Player of the Year race will now be decided at the NCAA Women’s Championship. Hold on to those ballots everybody.
5.) Is Amy Anderson a Player of the Year candidate? This year no, but maybe next year she will be. Anderson had a great freshman year with five victories and held her own at the West Regional. The frosh from North Dakota State finished T-17, but finally got to face some top-100 competition. Here are some names Anderson beat: Tiffany Lua, Sydnee Michaels, Alice Kim, Brooke Pancake and Julia Boland. I’ll end this question with a question: Will we see Amy Anderson face top-100 competition again before regionals next year?
6.) Has Auburn forgotten about last year? Absolutely. Auburn ended last year on a sour note with a 10th-place finish at the East Regional and missed out on a chance to compete for a national title. This year the Tigers are headed to Wilmington with one of the top 10 teams in the country. Kim Evans’ squad clearly has moved on from what happened a year ago, proving her team has the talent and most importantly the maturity to succeed. WAR EAGLE!
7.) Is this Georgia State’s year? Sadly, no. The Panthers just couldn’t get anything going at Ironwood Country Club as their scores continuously got worse with each round. The Panthers’ three-day scores were 290-310-317 to finish 53 over, 37 shots behind eighth-place TCU. Cathy Mant has a good team. Maybe next year will be the Panthers’ year to get to nationals for the first time.
8.) Will East Carolina have a home-course advantage? Not really. Stanford was the only one team that hosted a regional and advanced to the NCAA Championship. The Pirates hung around, but just couldn’t post a quality score to put them in contention for a chance to crack the top eight. Stanford, however, played on their home golf course and took advantage of every inch of local knowledge. The Cardinal finished sixth and are now booking plane tickets for Wilmington.