NCAA Women notes: Texas A&M holding its own

Texas A&M players cheer during the third round of the 2011 NCAA Championship.

Women's Rankings »

RankNameSchoolRating
1Alison LeeUCLA  69.96 
2Stephanie MeadowAlabama  70.17 
3Gaby LopezArkansas  70.29 
4Noemi JimenezArizona St  70.31 
5Celine BoutierDuke  70.40 

Women's Team Rankings »

RankNameRatingEvents
1Southern California 70.64  13 
2UCLA 70.83  12 
3Duke 70.89  11 
4Stanford 71.74  13 
5Arizona State 71.75  12 

BRYAN, Texas – Under a darkening sky late Friday evening, Trelle McCombs and her Aggies squatted down, hands on knees, and waited for freshman Katerina Ruzickova to drop a final par putt at No. 18. Then the trademark whoop rang out as Texas A&M put their first round of over 300 in the books.

With 14 shots between the Aggies and leader UCLA, Texas A&M would need a lot of things to go their way in the final round to take home a national championship on their home turf at Traditions Club. At 27-over 891, they sit in solo fifth. But as far as McCombs is concerned, it’s been a good week for the home team, especially considering all the speculation leading up to the event that the Aggies might not even make it to the national championship.

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“I think we’ve proven we are a team to contend with at least,” McCombs said. “It was always going to be stressful to get through regionals, and then we just needed to relax and play well this week.”

It’s been a good week for fans of Texas A&M golf, too. Crowds around the team have been thick this week. Blown-up cardboard cut-outs of each player’s head floated through the crowd during the opening rounds, and the maroon and white face paint came out Friday.

Winds have swirled this week in Traditions, which is one reason McCombs thinks her team has played so well.

“It’s never an easy thing to play in the wind but I think because we know which way the wind comes from and what it’s going to do, I think it definitely helped us,” she said.

Never hurts to have the lay of the land.

•••

Wild aces: When the day began, LSU freshman Austin Ernst seemed to be all but out of reach thanks to a second-round 66. Ernst’s round took a vicious turn late in the afternoon as she made triple bogey at Nos. 9 and 12.

It was during the middle of that stretch that UCLA’s Tiffany Lua holed out at the par-3 11th, effectively bumping Ernst out of the lead. Lua is at 5 over for the tournament and has a three-shot lead on Georgia's Marta Silva Zamora and Ernst. Neither Lua nor Ernst were able to finish the round as play was called for darkness.

Lua was one of three players to score a hole-in-one on Friday. Coastal Carolina’s Courtney Boe also holed out at the 11th, and Virginia’s Brittany Altomare made an ace at No. 16.

•••

A game of individuals: Four of the top 10 players on the individual leaderboard are playing in the national championship as individuals. Golfweek’s top-ranked Silva Zamora has the most to gain from a high finish as she creeps closer to Player of the Year honors.

The Georgia senior holds a share of second at 2 under for the tournament. Michigan State sophomore Caroline Powers gained serious ground in the third round with a 3-under 69 and is one shot back in fourth.

North Dakota sophomore Amy Anderson and Duke sophomore Lindy Duncan shot rounds of 2-under 70 and are T-5.

• • •

Timely refocus: Heavy rain clouds hovered over Traditions Club for the majority of third round, causing a stoppage of play for an hour and 50 minutes during the middle of the afternoon wave. It was just what a struggling Virginia squad needed to right the ship.

The Cavaliers were falling down the leaderboard until the horn sounded and they were able to eat and rally through a storm that never materialized.

“I almost think it might have helped us to get off the course and regroup and maybe even just to sit down and eat and have something to drink,” said head coach Kim Lewellen.

When Virginia returned to the course for the second half of the round, they climbed into a share of third with LSU. Lewellen worked her way through the player huddle off the 18th green as soon as she saw the final state of the leaderboard, hugging and high-fiving her players. She’ll tone down her excitement leading up to the final round.

“I think for some of them, you fire them up and for some of them you calm them down,” she said. “I’m not big on pep talks anyway so I think it’s more of you figure out what that individual wants and what they need and you talk to them individually.”

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