• • •
For the second time in the same year, Auburn has defeated rival Alabama in match play for a tournament title. Meanwhile on the women’s side, USC continues to be dominant.
The Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide, 4-1, in Wednesday’s men’s final at the East Lake Cup for the title at the fall event.
On the women’s side, it was USC that came out victorious in a much tighter battle with Stanford. The Trojans won the final, 3-2, thanks to Gabriela Ruffels’ 2-and-1 triumph over Andrea Lee in the anchor match. The triumph ensured USC has now won the East Lake Cup in all three of its appearances (2015, ’17, ’18).
Auburn and Alabama finished fourth and third, respectively, in the men’s stroke-play portion at East Lake Golf Club. But Auburn upset top-seeded Duke, 4-1, in its semifinal match while Alabama took down second-seeded and top-ranked Oklahoma State, 3-2, in its semifinal tilt.
In the final, Auburn won each of the first three matches. The title was clinched when Brandon Mancheno defeated Prescott Butler, 3 and 2, in the third match.
Trace Crowe defeated Davis Riley, 2 and 1, in the opening match while Jacob Solomon downed Davis Shore, 2 and 1, in match No. 2 to build a 2-0 lead. Wilson Furr’s 2-and-1 triumph over Jovan Rebula represented Alabama’s only point. Wells Padgett beat Frankie Capan, 4 and 3, in the anchor match to secure a 4-1 margin.
If you’re getting a sense of deja vu, Auburn defeated Alabama in the final of last season’s SEC Championship back in April – although that triumph was achieved in much more dramatic fashion.
Both teams ended up making noise in the postseason, with Auburn reaching match play at the NCAA Championship for the first time and getting to the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Oklahoma State. Alabama would reach its fourth final in seven seasons but fell to the Cowboys in a romp.
This is Auburn’s first win of the fall. The Tigers, No. 16 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, have improved their finish each tournament. It was a sixth-place showing in the opener followed by a fifth, a third, a T-2 and then this victory.
Fourth-ranked Alabama had one win in the fall and did not finish worse than fifth in a tournament.
Albane Valenzuela dominated the opening match, blitzing to a 6-and-4 triumph over Jennifer Chang to give Stanford a 1-0 lead. The following two matches would keep the Cardinal in front, as USC’s Malia Nam defeated Ziyi Wang, 3 and 1, in the second match but Stanford’s Mika Liu posted a 4-and-3 triumph over Amelia Garvey in Match No. 3.
Alyaa Abdulghany’s 2-and-1 victory over Aline Krauter made it 2-2 and set up the anchor match to decide the outcome.
Ruffels fell into a 2-down hole against Lee through eight but won Nos. 9 and 10 to quickly square the match up. It was still All Square heading to No. 16, where Ruffels took control.
The sophomore won Nos. 16 and 17 to close out a 2-and-1 triumph and the title.
USC finished second in the stroke-play portion, but the Trojans defeated defending national champion Arizona, 4-1, in the semifinals and then triumphed again in the final. The victory in match play means the top-ranked Trojans won three of its four events this fall a season after reaching the semifinals at the NCAA Championship.
Stanford, ranked 14th, captured stroke play at the East Lake Cup and cruised to a 4-1 triumph over Alabama in the semifinals. The Cardinal’s luck ran out in the final, but it meant a second runner-up in three full events this fall. Stanford still has one event remaining (the Pac-12 Preview) on its fall schedule and is coming off a semifinals appearance at the 2018 NCAA Championship.
The Cardinal has reached the semifinals of the NCAA Championship all four years since the tournament’s move to match play. Stanford won the national title in 2015.