The Pac-10 and the SEC are finally throwing down this weekend. Unfortunately for football fans, the football teams won’t be taking part.
The No. 3 USC Women’s golf team travels to the Stanford Golf Club in Palo Alto, Calif. in the Pac-10/SEC Challenge this weekend for what is essentially a tournament within a tournament.
As in a traditional tournament, the lowest-scoring team will walk away with the team title, but there is also a conference championship up for grabs. The top four scoring teams from the Pac-10 and the top four scoring teams from the SEC will combine to compete for the conference title, with the lower-scoring conference getting bragging rights for the year.
“There seems to be a lot of interest, and they’re trying to do it every year or every other year,” USC coach Andrea Gaston said. “There’s always been a lot of competition between the conferences.”
This is the last fall tournament for the Women of Troy, who have placed in the top three in all three of their fall tournaments. Unfortunately, this will be their first tournament without team leader Lizette Salas. Salas, a junior, will finish her qualifying tournament for the LGPA Futures Tour Friday, where she is tied for 17th going into the final round.
With Salas out, the team will look to junior Lisa McCloskey to provide leadership over a roster that includes a sophomore and two freshmen. McCloskey, a transfer from Pepperdine, has finished fourth place in her three tournaments for the Women of Troy. The two-time All-American looks to maintain her momentum despite being one month since her last tournament. Over that span, she has been in Argentina competing for Colombia in the World Amateur Team Championship. McCloskey paced the Colombian team to 11th while finishing in eighth place individually.
Sophomore Cyna Rodriguez has participated in all three events for the Women of Troy this fall. She has moved up the leader board in every tournament she has played this season, culminating in a tie for 16th at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational a month ago.
Junior Inah Park is coming off the best performance of her career at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational, where her tie for 11th was her collegiate career low.
Freshman Sophia Popov tied for 67th in her USC debut in the first tournament of the season, but bounced back with a tie for fifth at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational. Like McCloskey, Popov spent part of the month between tournaments competing at the World Amateur in Argentina for her home country of Germany. The German team finished in seventh, and Popov led the team with a 16th place finish.
Rounding out the roster this week is freshman Rachel Morris. Morris is looking to improve on her 78th place finish in her last tournament, the Mason Rudolph Championship in September. In her USC debut she tied for 18th at the Fall Preview which took place in early September.
The team has a chance to bring home a trophy for itself and for the Pac-10, which is an entertaining season-ending tournament that breaks the traditional tournament mold. Salas’ absence poses an interesting challenge for the Women of Troy and presents an interesting opportunity for the team.
“We’re going in knowing we have a great amount of talent on this team,” Gaston said. “This is the time to find out what our team is really capable of.”