Women's preview: West Coast Conference
Thursday, March 8, 2012
In the West Coast Conference, Pepperdine is deserving of the term “overwhelming favorite.” Afterall, the Waves finished 36 shots ahead of the next closest competitor last year on their way to a 10th consecutive league title. They’ve won 13 of the 15 conference championships ever contested.
And this does not appear to be the year they’ll break the streak.
Based on the last three tournaments on Pepperdine’s schedule -- two runner-ups and a fifth -- the Waves look to be on the rise, especially with sophomore Grace Na in the lead. Na just passed the one-year mark at Pepperdine after graduating high school a semester early to join the roster last spring. Already she earned Golfweek honorable mention All-American honors -- named last spring -- and tied the 18-hole NCAA scoring record this fall with her opening 9-under 63 at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown.
Na, a bubbly player with a good sense of humor, maintained the lowest scoring average for Pepperdine in the fall, but the other five players on this roster know how to score, too. Na won once in the fall and led the team two other times, but freshman Alina Ching finished T-5 to lead Pepperdine at the spring opener, the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge.
If a team were to challenge Pepperdine for the league title, San Francisco would be it. It’s tough to overlook that the Dons finished in the top 3 four times in the fall and won once. Lay team scores from the fall side by side, however, and the Dons will need the best they own to beat Pepperdine -- as in, scores closer to even par. San Francisco has it in them, but three rounds will be a test.
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Top of the class: Pepperdine
Best player in the fall: Grace Na, Pepperdine
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Pepperdine (Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: No. 37)
The Waves totally dominant this conference, but looking solid nationwide, too. Finished the fall with two runner-ups, finished third at Northop Grumman to start the spring.
San Francisco (No. 91)
Team with the best chance of dethroning Pepperdine at the conference championship, but it will have to play three stellar rounds. Never finished outside the top 3 in four fall starts, which is a good sign.
BYU (No. 99)
Rough start to the season, but finished sixth. Starting the season at UNLV then the Bruin Wave will be good tests.
Gonzaga (No. 127)
Tie for seventh at the Edean Ihlanfeldt was a solid showing. Victoria Fallgren is the bright spot on this roster.
Santa Clara (No. 126)
Finished the fall with two wins (albeit in small fields) to recover from a last-place finish at the Ptarmigan Ram Classic.
April 16-18, San Juan Oaks GC, Hollister, Calif.
Lance Ringler's prediction
Pepperdine. While San Francisco has tried to close the gap and BYU is a new competitor in the WCC, but it is not going to happen this year. Waves win again.
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Wondering how your favorite conference is shaping up headed into the spring season? Who is our favorite to pick up the automatic qualifier? Check out our conference-by-conference break down with our complete coverage page here.
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