It was a logical progression of expectations after Rose Zhang became the first player in NCAA Women’s Division I history to win back-to-back individual titles in the NCAA Tournament with her victory at Grayhawk on Monday. Last year, Zhang’s Stanford team followed her success by capturing its second NCAA team championship. Since Zhang repeated this year, there was no reason to figure the Cardinal wouldn’t do so, too.
What that thinking did not account for was the very small margins of difference between the top teams in the women’s game, and Tuesday’s match-play team action in Scottsdale, Ariz., proved that in numerous ways.
In what was likely her farewell college event before she turns pro in the summer, Zhang was defeated 2 and 1 by junior Brianna Navarrosa, and No. 5-seeded USC beat top-seeded Stanford 3-1 to advance to Wednesday’s championship match. The Southern California team will take on No. 3 seed Wake Forest, which beat No. 7 seed Texas A&M 3-0.
The title match will be shown on Golf Channel from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. ET.
The USC women own three national golf titles but will be making their first appearance in the final since match play began in 2015. The Trojans last triumphed in 2013. Wake Forest has never won the national championship and in 2019 lost to Duke in the final.
Earlier on Tuesday in the quarterfinals, USC knocked off South Carolina 3-1, Wake Forest defeated Florida State 3-1, Stanford beat Pepperdine 3-1 and Texas A&M upset Texas 3-1.
The Trojans never trailed in two of their three semifinal matches against Stanford, and that included Navarrosa, who won the first hole over Zhang and built a 3-up lead over the top-ranked women’s amateur in the world.
“I went in thinking of it as another round,” Navarrosa said. “I knew going into the second round it was going to be a battle. I went in, not thinking anything, not knowing where we stand. I just played my best and gave my all to the very end, and I think it paid off.”
Xin “Cindy” Kou and Christine Wang scored the other points in USC’s win.
“Christine Wang, who we’ve subbed in, subbed out and subbed back in today, gets a win. Brianna (Navarrosa) holds off the greatest amateur golfer of all time, and then Cindy Kou goes out and puts up a great round,” USC head coach Justin Silverstein said. “This is a long day; everyone told me how tiring this day was, and now I believe them. We have to get this group some rest and come back tomorrow.”
Wake Forest overcame early deficits in most of its matches. Emilia Migliaccio, Rachel Kuehn and Mimi Rhodes all earned victories.
“These young ladies, from the perseverance they had from the morning matches to the afternoon matches, overcoming some of the adversity and finishing it off with the wins that we did, to make it to the next day, it’s just an unbelievable feeling for myself, my team and for Wake Forest,” said Demon Deacons head coach Kim Lewellen.