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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cameron Jourdan

Stanford gets revenge against USC, will face UCLA in final at 2024 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Screams erupted from the 16th hole green, racing toward the 18th green some 200 yards away.

Kelly Xu’s hands went up in the air. Her teammates’ voices beckoned a celebration. The victory was secured.

Last season, Stanford fell in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship semifinals against conference foe USC. The teams were matched up Tuesday afternoon at Omni La Costa’s North Course, a date in the national championship match on the line again, and the Cardinal got its revenge.

Top-seeded Stanford knocked off No. 4 USC 4-1 in the semifinals to clinch a spot in the championship match for the second time in three years. The Cardinal will take on sixth-seeded UCLA, which beat Oregon 3-1 in the other semifinal to advance to its first championship match in the match-play era.

“We have so much respect for USC,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “We’ve had such a good year, and they’re so similar to our team one through five. We went out there knowing it would be close.”

Xu clinched the match on the par-3 16th green, and teammate Paula Martin Sampedro was tied in her match on the 18th green before her and the Cardinal faithful directed their attention to the celebration across the way. Rachel Heck took off sprinting through the tall grass to join in. Sampedro and others followed.

Stanford sophomore Megha Ganne won three straight holes from Nos. 15-17 to go from one down to win 2 and 1 in her match against Brianna Navarrosa. The first Cardinal point came from Sadie Englemann, a match-play assassin for Stanford, who went 2-0 on Tuesday and won 6 and 5 in the semifinal match.

While Stanford is going for its second title in three years, UCLA is in an unfamiliar position during the match play era. The Bruins have never made the championship match, and before this year, they had only made the semis one time since the switch in format.

Now, in Alicia Um Holmes’ first year as head coach after 17 years as an assistant under UCLA Hall of Famer Carrie Forsyth, the rebuilt Bruins are looking for their first championship since 2011.

“It’s kind of unbelievable, right?” Um Holmes said. “In our first year to make it this far, it’s just been a great ride with this team.”

UCLA women’s golf at the 2024 NCAA Women’s Golf Championship. (Photo: UCLA Athletics)

UCLA’s roster is comprised of three transfers, Natalie Vo (Colorado), Kate Villegas (UC Riverside) and Meghan Royal (Arkansas), the latter who graduated from Carlsbad High School. In preparation for the championship, the Bruins leaned on royal for her course experience, even if it’s not quite the same after the Gil Hanse renovation.

The other two players in the lineup, Zoe Campos and Caroline Canales, have been stalwarts. Campos was on the final watch list for the 2024 Annika Award, given to the college player of the year, and has four victories this season. Canales won both her matches Tuesday to help get the Bruins into a position they’ve never been.

“When we started off the year, we had no expectations,” Um Holmes said. “We just said let’s play, and see what they do. Let’s stick to our game and see if we can win these matches.”

The semifinals comprised of four Pac-12 teams, which will soon be three Big 10 teams and one ACC. There had never been four teams from one conference to make the semifinals until Tuesday.

A win for Stanford on Wednesday would be its third all-time. For UCLA, the Bruins would collect their fourth.

Championship match

No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 6 UCLA

  • Paula Martin Sampedro vs. Caroline Canales (5:15 p.m. ET, 1st tee)
  • Kelly Xu vs. Meghan Royal (5:25 p.m.)
  • Megha Ganne vs. Natalie Vo (5:35 p.m.)
  • Sadie Englemann vs. Zoe Campos (5:45 p.m.
  • Rachel Heck vs. Kate Villegas (5:55 p.m.)
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