By Arman Kassam
No. 4 Stanford women’s golf came in at fourth place at the NCAA East Lansing Regional, which took place Monday to Wednesday of this week (May 6-8), and will continue to the NCAA National Championship in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on May 17-22.
The Cardinal hit 14 above par, coming in behind No. 12 Kent State (-4), No. 5 Arizona (-3) and No. 14 UCLA (+10). In addition to those four teams, No. 28 Illinois (+18) and Indiana (+19) have secured spots at the National Championship. These teams were recognized contenders for a spot on the national stage, but the Hoosiers — an unranked underdog team — just barely displaced No. 20 Michigan State (+22) and No. 21 Campbell (+26). Indiana celebrates its first top-6 finish at regionals since 2007.
The par 72 first round on Monday was fairly consistent for the Cardinal, though it wasn’t quite enough to reach the top six. Junior and recent Pac-12 Women’s Golfer of the Month Andrea Lee shot three over, having a bit of trouble with the fifth and seventh holes. Junior Albane Valenzuela shot a comfortable 4 over in the first round, but the real standout performance of the day came at the hands of Mika Liu, who shot 1 under and ended up carrying the squad, which was collectively sitting at eighth place.
And then, just as Mithrandir arrived at the nick of time with the Rohirrim to save the inundated forces of Théoden at the Battle of Helm’s Deep, the Cardinal shot up the rankings to finally break into the top six on Tuesday. Freshman Aline Krauter shot a remarkable 1-under 71 with three birdies and 11 pars, moving to the top 20. Mika Liu ended even-par, Lee shot 1-over 73 with an eagle and two birdies, and Valenzuela shot 1-over 73 with two birdies. The Cardinal planted themselves at fourth place and would not move for the rest of the tournament.
“Today was a long one with the weather and changing tee times,” Margot and Mitch Milias Director of Women’s Golf Annew Walker said on Tuesday. “The team embraced the challenge through and played smart but aggressive. They fought until the end and picked up some late birdies that were key.”
Simultaneously, there was some dominant competition just above Stanford. UCLA’s Patty Tavatanakit shot one under her first day, six under her second, and finished one under on her last. Arizona finished fairly consistently on-par and Kent State had enough of a lead after the first day to act as a buffer for hiccups down the road.
Despite some inclement weather, the Cardinal were able to perform fairly well on the final day of competition. Andrea Lee finished Wednesday with two over for a tournament total of six over. Valenzuela came in on par, and both her and Krauter managed to end the competition with a five-over finish. Both Liu and junior Ziyi Wang ended the competition nine-over, but Wang ended Wednesday with four birdies and two under.
Stanford now moves on to the NCAA National Championship in Fayetteville, Arkansas, marking their tenth consecutive appearance at the tournament. Though some of the squads may have given the Cardinal a little trouble at regionals in Michigan, the heavyweights that will be at Fayetteville will bring a tsunami of woe. No. 2 UT Austin demolished the competition with a nine-under collective finish at the regionals in Norman, Oklahoma. To give a sense of scale, the runner-up was No. 10 Florida, a team that managed to finish on par. No. 6 Vanderbilt won its regionals at Opelika, Alabama, after having gone four-under, and as expected, No. 1 USC won the Cle Elum regionals in Washington with 20-under par.
Stanford has had a streak of excellence in the past decade, winning the National Championship in 2015 and the Conference Championship in 2014, but in order to play with the giants of 2019 the Cardinal will need to get big. Stanford has the capability (see Lee, Valenzuela and most recently, Liu), but a real showstopper will be needed for the Cardinal to claim another title. The competition will be tough and the terrain will be rough, but our squad is most definitely up-to-snuff.
Catch the National Tournament at Fayetteville Arkansas on May 17-22.