EUGENE, Ore. – Stanford took down a longtime powerhouse, and in the process, established itself as a force to be reckoned with. Washington rode the shoulders of three freshmen and ousted the No. 1 seed.
Now only Pac-12 foes remain for Wednesday's final at Eugene Country Club to determine the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship.
Stanford, the 2015 champion, beat Duke 3-2 in the semifinals. Washington beat UCLA, 3-1-1. All three points from the Huskies were produced by freshmen Sarah Rhee, Julianne Alvarez and Wenyung Keh.
The shocker of all shockers came in the Washington-UCLA matches.
Rhee was 3 down with three holes remaining against UCLA senior Louise Ridderstrom. But Rhee won the last three holes with birdies to send the match into extra holes. Then, Rhee hit her approach on the 19th hole into a greenside bunker but holed the shot for birdie. She won when Ridderstrom’s birdie attempt from just off the green missed.
“I’m stunned,” said Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur, in her 33rd year at the helm. “Those guys believe in themselves so much and they believe in each other even more.”
In the other match, Stanford coach Anne Walker sent her top players out first, a strategy that differed some from her previous lineups. It worked to perfection. Senior Mariah Stackhouse easily beat Gurbani Singh, 3 and 2, to set the tone. Next up, Casey Danielson defeated Leona Maguire on the last hole. Stackhouse (4-1) and Danielson (5-0) are a combined 9-1 for the Cardinal in matches the last two years.
“It’s a lot of fun to go out there and compete for them,” Danielson said of her teammates. “I would do anything for them. I just go out there and give it my all.”
UCLA won the stroke-play portion of this championship and won its morning match against tournament-host Oregon. But the Washington freshmen were too much for the Bruins to handle down the stretch.
“I’m obviously disappointed, but we just got beat,” UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth said. “In the end there was some magic happening and it wasn’t going in our direction. There’s nothing you can do about that.”
Duke, a six-time NCAA champion, was ousted in the semifinals for the second consecutive year. The Blue Devils beat longtime rival USC in the morning quarterfinal matches but just didn’t have enough gas to hang with the defending champions in the afternoon semifinals.
“We had to play great twice (on Tuesday) and we didn’t get it done, and that’s OK,” Duke coach Dan Brooks said. “We wanted to win the national championship, so we’re disappointed. I tried to remind the team that with the parity we see in our sport right now, to play all the way to the last four in the final tournament, you have to be really proud of that.”