East: Cal overcomes midseason blip

California's Pia Halbig during the Women's NCAA East Regionals. Halbig shot a opening round 73.

California's Pia Halbig during the Women's NCAA East Regionals. Halbig shot a opening round 73.

Women's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Alison LeeUCLA  69.59 
2Annie ParkUSC  69.73 
3Yu LiuDuke  69.81 
4Stephanie MeadowAlabama  70.00 
5Gaby LopezArkansas  70.01 

Women's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Southern California 70.32 
2UCLA 70.60 
3Duke 70.79 
4Stanford 71.49  10 
5Arkansas 71.52 

Top team: Coastal Carolina (2-under 286)

Top individual: Jessica Alexander (Coastal Carolina) and Jessica Negron (Florida State), 1-under 71

In position (the next seven): 2. Alabama (287), 3. California (290), 4. North Carolina (293), T5. Arizona State (295), T-5 Purdue (295), T7. Michigan State (297), T7 Florida State (297).

Chasing (still work to do): 9. Florida (298). 10. Louisville (301). T11. Auburn (302), T11. Augusta State (302)

East Coast state of mind: Far from sleep-walking around LPGA International on Thursday, California played up to its No. 3 seed across the country in Daytona Beach, Fla. The Golden Bears are on the East Coast for the first time since the Mason Rudolph in September, but they’ve been trying to get rid of their West Coast sense of time for the past week. Head coach Nancy McDaniel had the team up and at ’em every morning at 4:30 back in Berkeley, Calif., power walking or getting ready for the final classes and exams of the spring semester.

“We knew that we had to have our clocks right by the time we stepped on the course today,” McDaniel said.

Cal posted 2-over 290 in breezy conditions Thursday and sits in third after Round 1. McDaniel said a big part of that was feeling acclimated. Another part was getting over a midseason stumble at the Battle at Rancho Bernardo in mid-March.

Cal had been cruising through the season after three victories, including back-to-back wins at the Peg Barnard and Juli Inkster Spartan invitationals. The Golden Bears finished 13th of 17 teams in San Diego, effectively crushing that momentum.

“We knew a little hiccup like that will happen in these seasons because they’re so long,” McDaniel said.

After rebounding with fifth- and sixth-place finishes at the Ping Invitational and Pac-10 Championship, respectively, the Golden Bears once again are trying to peak at the right time as thoughts of impending finals swirl in their heads. A top-3 seed helps that cause.

“You get to play with people who you’ve been looking at for a while — we only saw Alabama back at the SEC/Pac-10, and Purdue, we saw at San Diego State,” McDaniel said.

Amid competition like that, Cal is wide awake.

Fitting in just fine: As the morning wave of teams filtered off the golf course Thursday afternoon, North Carolina stopped short of the lunchroom and the range to spend a few minutes engrossed in putting wars at a practice green just off the first tee box. In the middle of the group of young Tar Heels, it was hard to miss the player wearing her hat Jesper Parnevik-style and with white tube socks pulled halfway to her knees. And that player, junior Allie White, couldn’t be happier to be a Tar Heel again.

“Out here riding my own wave, but they let me ride my own wave,” White said with a big smile as her teammates and head coach Jan Mann broke into laughter.

White joined the North Carolina roster as a freshman under head coach Sally Austin (who left after that year), then transferred to Ohio State as a sophomore. She played only the fall season at Ohio State before taking the spring off of collegiate golf and picking up with Mann and the No. 15-ranked Tar Heels this season.

“We have a great time together, and Allie, it’s been great having her,” Mann said. “I’m glad to see her playing golf again. I’m glad to see her enjoying herself, and she’s fit in wonderful.”

The Tar Heels, as the No. 7 seed, posted a 5-over 293 and are in fourth. Junior Catherine O’Donnell led that charge with a 2-under 70, and White added a 73. The three freshmen on the roster posted nothing higher than 76.

“They’re all very good ball-strikers," Mann said. "The key for us is to get those putts to drop.”

Short shots: Coastal Carolina made the most of a No. 17 seed, vaulting to the top of the leaderboard Thursday afternoon with a 2-under 286. The Chanticleers entered the East Regional off a two-win spring (the Central Florida Invitational and the Big South Conference Championship). “Our goal for today was just to make sure we were still in it, and I guess we are,” head coach Katie Quinney said. . . . Put Auburn and Colorado in the other list of surprise performances during Day 1 of regionals. SEC champion Auburn went 14 over while Colorado, which won twice in the fall season, was 18 over. . . Florida State’s Jessica Negron pulls out all the stops when it comes to postseason. The sophomore posted a first-round 69 that left her tied for first. It’s her first sub-70 score of the season, and also the first time she’s shot that number in competition since the opening round of last year’s NCAA Championship, where she finished T-21. “To me, I feel like it’s a different competition,” she said of postseason play.

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