Top-seeded Stanford women ride early lead to second NCAA Championship
C. Morgan Engel
The NCAA Women’s Championship final was largely devoid of drama early on Wednesday, while not devaluing what transpired at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., an unsurprising victory for a talent-deep Stanford team.
The Cardinal, the No. 1-seed in match play featuring the last two NCAA individual champions, broke to early leads in three of the five matches, added a fourth player leading, and rode it to a 3-2 victory over second-seeded Oregon.
“They were incredible, right out of the gates,” Stanford coach Anne Walker said. “I was so impressed by how poised they were. And they were loose, too. They were having so much fun. With this group, if they were loose they were going to hit great golf shots, and that’s what we saw.”
With former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the director of the Hoover Institute at Stanford and previously its 10th provost, there in support of the Cardinal, the Pac-12 power became the first No. 1 seed to win the national championship since adding match play to determine the team winner in 2015. Coincidentally, the Cardinal won the national championship that year, the first for Walker.
The second NCAA championship did not come so quickly for Stanford, the No. 1 seed in 2021, too, before losing in the semifinals. They avenged that disappointment with a strong performance led by senior Aline Krauter in her match with Pac-12 individual champion Hsin-Yu Lu. Krauter was 6 up through nine holes and defeated Lu, 5 and 3.
Junior Brooke Seay, first off for Stanford, started the victory parade with a 4-and-3 win over Ching-Tzu Chen.
Oregon’s first point came from Tze-Han Lin, who defeated Rachel Heck, the 2021 NCAA individual champion, 3 and 2. Heck, weakened by a late-season bout of mononucleosis, never led in the match.
Brianna Chacon, an Oregon junior, gave the Ducks a remote chance of a comeback victory by winning the final two holes to defeat Sadie Englemann, 1 up.
So it came down to Stanford’s star freshman, Rose Zhang, No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, winner of the NCAA individual title on Monday and the Annika Award for national player of the year on Tuesday. Zhang went 1 up on the first hole, never trailed, and finally defeated Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen, 3 and 1.
“I’m just so proud of my team,” Zhang said. “We’ve worked all season long to get to this point and for us to actually do it, we’ve had so much expectations on us. We were number one in the country and every single player was amazing. To be able to do that now, it’s insane. I cannot be more proud of my team.”