Women of Troy still looking for first win

The USC women’s golf team, still seeking its first tournament victory, recorded another strong opening in the Battle at Rancho Bernardo Monday, finishing play tied for second at 7-over-par 295.

The tournament, held at the Rancho Bernardo Inn Championship Golf Course in San Diego, is hosted by San Diego State and features 16 teams, including Washington, Arizona and California. The tournament spans two days, with play concluding Tuesday.

Teeing off · Senior Lisa McCloskey had a tough time toward the end of the Battle at Rancho Bernardo, but still finished at 79. - Photo courtesy of Sports Information

Damp, gloomy conditions created considerable struggles, but USC received a strong effort from sophomore Sophia Popov, who notched three birdies and two bogeys to finish tied for third at 1-under-par 71. Freshman Doris Chen continued her strong spring season with a finish of 1-over-par 73, including three birdies, to place ninth. Senior Inah Park came in tied for 22nd at   3-over-par 75, while sophomore Rachel Morris is currently tied for 27th at 4-over-par 76. Senior Lisa McCloskey, who started off strong with two birdies through the first three holes, struggled to a score of 7-over-par 79, tied for 58th.

Expectations are running especially high for the Trojans after their dominant 2011 season, in which they won four tournaments. Additionally, the Women of Troy notched their sixth consecutive top-5 NCAA finish, and their successful season included triumphs at the 2011 Pac-10 championships and 2011 NCAA West Regional. Such success brought numerous accolades to the team, as Popov was named National and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year while coach Andrea Gaston captured National Coach of the Year honors for the second time in her 16 years at the helm.

The Women of Troy, ranked No. 3 nationally by Golf World, have overcome a less-than-stellar fall campaign to remain competitive in the spring but have not been able to achieve a tournament victory. After a resounding second-place finish in the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge to start the spring half, the Women of Troy had their best opportunity to win the Allstate Sugar Bowl last month but surrendered the lead on the final day, finishing third overall.

All-American McCloskey, who leads the team in stroke average (72.27), finished third in the competition and has now recorded four top-10 finishes this year. Popov, whose fall season was cut short with a wrist injury, has rebounded nicely in the spring, taking second at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge and tying for 16th at the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The Women of Troy have also received consistently strong performances from Chen, who has compiled two top-10 finishes so far in the spring after participating in only one fall tournament. Park has notched three top-20 finishes in five starts, while Morris has started every tournament, including a 16th-place finish at the Stanford Intercollegiate in October.

Though victories have been hard to come by, the team insists that the goals remain the same. “We were hoping for a win since our team is in good shape,” Popov said. “We have to work hard now in order to get our first spring win in San Diego.”