Central: USC wins 8th regional; Arkansas sneaks in
Team winner: USC (874)
Individual winner: Lisa McCloskey (USC), Maria Salinas (Florida State)
Also moving on: 2. Vanderbilt (899), 3. Purdue (902), 4. Tennessee (904), 5. Virginia (905), 6. Ohio State (908), 7. North Carolina State (911), 8. Arkansas (913)
Individuals: T-1. Maria Salinas (Florida State), T-4. Rocio Sanchez Lobato (Georgia)
Runaway: Something about the Central Regional just fits USC. Head coach Andrea Gaston can’t quite put her finger on it, but knows it’s there.
“I definitely have enjoyed the courses in the central region,” said Gaston, in her 16th year at the Trojan helm. “... It just seems like I like the more difficult courses, they’re more demanding, I think our players play really well on difficult courses.”
After a 25-shot routing of the field at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course in Columbus, Ohio, “playing well” seems an understatement. USC led after each round, building its lead from one shot to 12 shots to the eventual 25-shot margin of victory.
This is the third year in a row that USC has won its NCAA Regional, and two of those were in the central region. It’s the sixth regional title in the past seven seasons, and an NCAA-record eighth in program history.
“Certainly wouldn’t mind converting them to national championships,” Gaston said, adding that she doesn’t think this team has peaked yet.
USC only has a roster of five this season after freshman Kristen Park turned professional earlier this spring. But everyone contributed in Columbus, particularly Lisa McCloskey. The senior earned co-medalist honors for her first victory as a Trojan. Sophia Popov and Doris Chen also finished in the top 10.
“They had to be patient out there because it was a very demanding course,” Gaston said of the team. “Proud of them for really separating themselves, they did a tremendous job managing the course.”
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Waiting game: Arkansas made up serious ground in Round 3, and just managed to sneak into the top 8 teams that will advance to the NCAA Championship at Vanderbilt's Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn. It didn’t come without some stress, though.
The Razorbacks were 12th at the beginning of the day, but after a final-round 295 climbed into the list of advancing teams. Then they had to wait for their pursuers to finish, and ended up just one shot ahead of Oregon.
“What a day,” head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor said. “It feels so good to be on the right side of one shot today. I can’t say enough about this team’s fortitude. They just hung it all on the line today, and on a day when we needed it most, they really rallied hard.”
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Short shots: After playing its way to second place during Round 1, Georgia fell back down the leaderboard in the following two rounds. The Bulldogs finished T-10 to miss out on a national-championship bid, but freshman Rocio Sanchez Lobato will play as an individual. That the Bulldogs won’t play as a team means last year’s player of the year, Marta Silva Zamora, won’t even be in this year’s field. . . . Host Ohio State advanced as one of the top 8 teams, climbing two spots during Round 3 to make it in without the added stress of being on the bubble.