STILLWATER, Okla. – Tuesday’s NCAA women’s quarterfinal matchup between Duke and USC matched experience against youth.
The Blue Devils boasted three players with NCAA match-play experience, including two-time ANNIKA Award winner Leona Maguire. The Trojans had no players who had even played in an NCAA Championship, as they featured four freshmen and a sophomore in their lineup.
This time, youth prevailed. USC topped Duke, 3-1-1, to advance to the semifinals for the third time in four years of NCAA Match Play.
“I know we’re a young team, but I don’t think they’re afraid,” said USC head coach Andrea Gaston.
Many didn’t expect USC to get back to this point. The team lost its top two players, Muni He and Robynn Ree, to pro golf before the spring, leaving the Trojans with just four players. USC head coach Andrea Gaston was forced to bring in reinforcements and three freshmen enrolled early. All three – Jennifer Chang, Amelia Garvey and Gabi Ruffels – are in the lineup this week at Karsten Creek, and two of them won their quarterfinal matches.
Chang lost to Maguire, whose decorated college career came to an end with a 1-up victory that moved her career NCAA match play record to 2-3. That was the only full point Duke earned on Tuesday.
Following a 4-and-2 victory by another USC freshman, Alyaa Abdulghany, over Maguire’s twin sister, Lisa, Ruffels gave USC its second point with a 1-up win over Duke freshman Jaravee Boonchant.
With USC sophomore Allisen Corpuz winning the final two holes of regulation against 2016 NCAA individual champion Virginia Elena Carta and in the midst of an extra-hole battle (their match ended in a halve), Garvey earned the clinching point with a 2-up victory over Ana Belac.
“They’re all the same page,” Gaston said. “There are no superstars; they’re all working together and really encouraging each other. Team camaraderie is the best I’ve ever seen.”
The only time USC did not advance to the NCAA semifinals was at Eugene Country Club in 2016, when Duke beat them, 4-1. The Trojans have never advanced to the finals of NCAA match play. They fell 3-2 to Northwestern in last year’s semifinals as two matches went 19 holes.