The No. 14 women’s golf team defeated Northwestern in the East Lake Cup match play semifinals in Atlanta on Tuesday. Junior Robynn Ree, sophomore Allisen Corpuz and freshman Alyaa Abdulghany led the team with 3-and-2 wins as the team took revenge on Arizona.
The two teams last faced off in the 2017 NCAA championship semifinals. In a day of close play, the Wildcats barely edged out the Trojans in extra holes to continue onto the finals, where they were defeated by Arizona State.
For the Trojans, Tuesday’s win provided a much-needed chance at redemption. It also reflected a change in approach by head coach Andrea Gaston, who adjusted the types of competitions she selected for this season.
“I’m proud of them all,” head coach Andrea Gaston said. “Last year, we played a lot of match play but in the end I felt it didn’t help us as much, so I entered us in more stroke play this year.”
The first point for the Trojans came from Abdulghany, who took down Northwestern’s Sarah Cho in a tight finish. The pair was head-to-head for the first six holes until Abdulghany pulled ahead quickly to a three-hole lead. She then fell to one over par, but finished with a bogey on 16 to draw out the victory.
Ree was the next to score with a victory over Stephanie Lau. She started similarly close with her opponent, but leapt out to a six-hole lead and held onto her lead for the Trojans’ second point, finishing with a par of 16.
The strongest start for the Trojans came from Corpuz, who never fell behind her opponent, Brooke Riley. She teetered between 1-over par and 2-over par throughout the final half of her holes, but was able to clean up the match for a USC team victory with a birdie.
Although their scores did not contribute to the overall team score, sophomores Divya Manthena and Muni He both competed in the semifinals as well. Manthena held a lead over Janet Mao out 2-over when play finished, while He was trailing in her match with Hannah Kim when the day ended for both teams.
USC will now face Stanford in the title match of the East Lake Cup on Wednesday. The Cardinal already took down Arizona State, the defending national champions, to advance to the tournament’s final.
Before the finals, the Trojans have had a mixed season in team play. They started strong with a first place finish at the Minnesota Invitational in September with a 9-stroke lead over Michigan State. The team then took seventh out of 12 teams at the Annika Invitational in Minnesota in October.
Those two tournaments have been the only team competitions of the season, with individual athletes competing at the Pac-12 Preview in Kona, Hawaii. The East Lake Cup gave the Trojans an opportunity to compete against several of the top teams in the country.
“Being invited to East Lake was spectacular for us and is a great experience,” Gaston said. “They all know it’s a different game. You have to watch what your opponent is doing but still play the golf course. I also told them, let’s just have fun out there. It’s beautiful.”