STILLWATER, Okla. – The match-play juggernaut continues to roll.
Stanford, the No. 5 seed, moved its overall record in NCAA Women’s Championship match play to 7-2 with a 3-2 victory Tuesday over fourth-seeded Northwestern in the quarterfinals.
The Cardinal’s streak of reaching the semifinals at every NCAAs since the switch to match play moves to four.
It was a matchup of the 2015 national champion (Stanford) versus last year’s national runners-up (Northwestern), and it was closely contested. But Stanford seemed to be in slight control for much of the match.
Shannon Aubert, Stanford’s match-play queen, proved herself again, taking down Brooke Riley, 4 and 3. The second match out was the first one done, putting Stanford up 1-0.
Soon after, Northwestern’s Sarah Cho defeated Ziyi Wang, 3 and 1, in the opening match. Northwestern’s Hannah Kim cruised to a 5-and-3 victory over Mika Liu in the third, but Stanford’s Albane Valenzuela did the same in a 5-and-4 triumph over Stephanie Lau in Match No. 4.
With the matches now 2-2, it came down to star sophomore Andrea Lee to deliver for the Cardinal in the anchor match. And she did.
Lee led from the opening hole of the match, No. 10, against Janet Mao and built her margin to 3 up through four holes. Mao fought back and got it to 1 down multiple times, but Lee won Nos. 5 and 6 to take a 3-up lead with three to play.
Mao birdied the seventh after a 6-footer snuck in the left side to win the hole and keep Northwestern’s hopes alive. A comeback appeared possible, especially with Mao being the one who made a clutch putt in a semifinal playoff to send the Wildcats to last year’s final.
With Lee just 3 feet from par at the par-4 eighth, Mao essentially had to make her 10-footer for birdie to keep Northwestern’s chances afloat again. She drained it, and now Lee’s lead was suddenly down to 1 up.
But Lee held firm at the last. Mao’s 25-footer for birdie came up short at the par 5, leaving Lee two putts from 12 feet to win the match. The sophomore casually put her first stroke a foot by the hole, a putt that was conceded.
She had won the match, 1 up, and moved Stanford onto the semifinals. This was in a week where the Cardinal was roughly 20 over through six holes in the opening round and sat in a tie for 16th after the first 18. But Stanford didn’t panic.
Look how that’s worked out.
With Arizona toppling top-seeded UCLA, the Cardinal will take on the Wildcats Tuesday afternoon in the semis.