FAYETTEVILLE -- Reversals and comebacks ruled the day during a wild, weather-delayed start to match play at the NCAA Women's Golf Championships at Blessings Golf Club on Tuesday.
Defending champion Arizona and Auburn, which had to fight on Monday just to squeeze into the final eight, completed stunning comebacks to send two of the favorites home, while No. 2 Duke needed extra holes to oust No. 7 Stanford in the quarterfinals.
The home team University of Arkansas rallied from a near day-long deficit to seize a brief lead late in the day before Wake Forest rallied for a 3-2 victory.
Auburn capped a huge comeback against top-seeded Texas, winning in extra holes on Brooke Sansom's 7-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second hole just before 8:30 p.m., right after teammate Mychael O'Berry fought back from a three-hole deficit to down Sara Kouskova 1 up with a 41/2-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
"I guess the moral of that story is just never give up," Auburn Coach Melissa Luellen said. "We just really try to be super strong mentally. We've been working on that all year long. Moments like this is when that stuff just kind of comes through."
For the first time in the five-year history of the match play format for the women, all four matches wound up 3-2.
The defending champion Arizona Wildcats made a statement on another long day, which was delayed more than six hours due to a rain stoppage.
The No. 4 Wildcats, trailing No. 1 Southern California in four of five matches for much of the day, rallied after the delay to down the Trojans 3-2.
No. 2 seed Duke, a winner over Stanford in a match decided in extra holes, will take on No. 6 seed Arizona at 7 a.m. on the first tee today in one semifinal.
In the other semifinal, No. 8 seed Auburn will take on No. 5 seed Wake Forest starting at 7 a.m. on No. 10.
Arizona senior Haley Moore, who went 3-0 in match play at the championships last season, put a 9-foot downhill putt in the middle of the hole on No. 9 for a birdie to down Gabriela Ruffels and close out the match, which was tied 2-2.
"I think they know that I do come in clutch, so to kind of have that pressure on me it's kind of fun, and it's also nerve-racking," Moore said.
"Oh gosh, we knew she was going to come in clutch, as usual," said Arizona senior Bianca Pagdanganan, who notched the first point of the match for the Wildcats.
"She's got the magic," USC Coach Justin Silverstein said of Moore. "The restart really killed us. They did all week. We did not do well on the restarts. Why, I have no idea.
"I was kind of hoping the law of averages would play out and we'd have a good one this time, but we didn't. I have no excuses for it. Our speed on the greens was a little sloppy today. It's kind of carried us all year."
The individual match of the day was an epic battle between Duke's Virginia Elena Carta and Stanford's Ziyi Wang. Even though it was the first pairing of the day, it was one of the last matches on the course as it went 24 holes. Carta overcame nearly going out of bounds on their 23rd hole, No. 5, to halve the hole, then birdied the par-4 sixth to win the match.
Auburn's comeback was even more dramatic. The Tigers were down big midway through the match, and all of their players trailed by at least two holes during the course of the match.
"I heard we were down early," O'Berry said. "I just knew what I had to do. I had to flip my match."
Kouskova's approach on No. 18 left her about 15 feet for birdie, while O'Berry was off the green. She chipped to just beyond 4 feet and made that putt while Kouskova three-putted. O'Berry's teammates on the 18th green were elated over that late reversal and downright giddy when hearing that Sansom made her winning putt on No. 2.
"Mychael, she's a fighter," Luellen said. "She loves that moment. That's why we put her in that position. She doesn't shy away from it. I have goosebumps just reviewing the shots she had to hit when she had to hit them."
Julie McCarthy scored Auburn's other point with a 3 & 1 victory over Agathe Laisne.
Ya Chun Chang accounted for Arizona's third point with her 2 & 1 decision over USC's Amelia Garvey.
Duke's Gina Kim and Ana Belac both closed out their 1-up victories with putts on No. 18 against Stanford's Albane Valenzuela and Mika Liu, respectively, to provide the Blue Devils' other two points.
NCAA Women’s match play quarterfinals
At Blessings Golf Club, Fayetteville
Par 73, 6,397 yards
NO. 5 WAKE FOREST DEF. NO. 4 ARKANSAS 3-2
Brooke Matthews (Arkansas) def. Letizia Bagnoli (Wake Forest), 1-up
Maria Fassi (Arkansas) def. Vanessa Knecht (Wake Forest), 2&1
Siyun Liu (Wake Forest) def. Dylan Kim (Arkansas), 1-up
Emilia Migliaccio (Wake Forest) def Ximena Gonzalez (Arkansas), 6&4
Jennifer Kupcho (Wake Forest) def. Kaylee Benton (Arkansas), 1-up
NO. 6 ARIZONA DEF. NO. 3 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 3-2
Malia Nam (USC) def. Yu-Sang Hou (Arizona), 3&2
Bianca Pagdanganan (Arizona) def. Jennifer Chang (USC), 2&1
Ya Chun Chang (Arizona) def. Amelia Garvey (USC), 2&1
Haley Moore (Arizona) def. Gabriela Ruffels (USC), 1-up
Alyaa Abdulghany (USC) def. Sandra Nordaas (Arizona), 3&2
NO. 2 DUKE DEF. NO. 7 STANFORD 3-2
Virginia Elena Carta (Duke) def. Ziyi Wang (Stanford), 24 holes
Gina Kim (Duke) def. Albane Valenzuela (Stanford), 1-up
Ana Belac (Duke) def. Mika Liu (Stanford), 1-up
Andrea Lee (Stanford) def. Jaravee Boonchant (Duke), 19 holes
Aline Krauter (Stanford) def. Miranda Wang (Duke), 2&1
NO. 8 AUBURN DEF. NO. 1 TEXAS 3-2
Hailee Cooper (Texas) def. Kaleigh Telfer (Auburn), 1-up
Kaitlyn Papp (Texas) def. Elena Hualde (Auburn), 2-up
Brooke Sansom (Auburn) def. Emilee Hoffman (Texas), 20 holes
Julie McCarthy (Auburn) def. Agathe Laisne (Texas), 3&1
Mychael O’Berry (Auburn) def. Sara Kouskova (Texas), 1-up
Yu-Sang Hou of Arizona watches her tee shot Tuesday on the fifth tee box during her match with Malia Nam of Southern California in the Women’s NCAA Golf Championships at the Blessings Golf Club.
Sports on 05/22/2019
Print Headline: Auburn's dramatics highlight tight day