The No. 1 USC women’s golf team has been playing above par all season.
Last week, the team won the 2011 Pac-10 championship, its fourth in program history and first since 2008.
Not only did the Women of Troy take home the team title, but freshman Sophia Popov captured the Pac-10’s individual title.
The Daily Trojan sat down with Popov to hear her thoughts on the season so far.
Daily Trojan: How did it feel winning both the team and individual titles at the Pac-10 championships?
Sophia Popov: It was pretty exciting, mostly to win the team title because that was what we were really aiming for, and that was my main goal. We have been working really hard this season and we have won a couple of tournaments so we thought, ‘Let’s win that Pac-10 title.’ Winning it individually was great especially since it was my second one in a row.
DT: What would you say was the highlight of the Pac-10 championships?
Popov: For me personally it was the playoffs in the end. I had a really good last round and I played okay the last two holes. I made a bogey on 17 so I kind of got caught up on that hole a little. I had to go into the playoffs and tied with [UCLA’s] Tiffany Lua and that was just very exciting for me because it was a nice way to finish a tournament.
DT: How would you describe the course you and the rest of the team played on during the competition?
Popov: The course was rather open and kind of challenging because it was kind of windy. In Arizona, it’s kind of like a desert course but it was a nice course. It was pretty wide, really tough greens. It wasn’t the most difficult course, but it was definitely challenging because of the wind and the conditions we had.
DT: Despite losing junior Lisa McCloskey, ranked third in the country, on the final day of competition due to injury, USC still came out on top. In what ways did her absence affect the team, if at all?
Popov: I knew her back was bad because I was rooming with her and she was really not doing very well, so I had this feeling that she wasn’t going to be able to play because she was in a lot of pain. And so our coach just comes to us on the driving range before we teed off and said, ‘I think Lisa is not going to make it today.’ But I knew we still had four players and we can still score really low, so if we just hang in there, just play for Lisa, then that’s all we can really do. It was tough, but us four players showed we could shoot really low without her. So it was a loss definitely, but we could pull through pretty well.
DT: You are a freshman this year, but have already proven yourself as a valuable member of the team. How has your first year on the team been and what have you taken away from it?
Popov: It’s been pretty great. It was kind of funny — my first tournament didn’t go very well. I played pretty bad because it took a little time to get used to everything here and it’s different from Europe. But I got my game up pretty fast. I won at Stanford in the fall and now I won two back-to-back tournaments, so obviously it’s been really good and I’ve jumped up the rankings now, too. I’m kind of overwhelmed by my game right now, but I’m trying to just keep my focus for the next two tournaments and hopefully I keep the momentum going.
DT: What are your hopes for the upcoming NCAA regionals?
Popov: For me, it’s to win with the team again. Obviously I want to play well individually. My expectations are high, but I know myself — no player can just keep it up that well. I just want to get a top finish and try to be satisfied with my game there and hopefully win with the team, and for the NCAAs pretty much the same.