Stanford finished seventh and Washington was sixth when the Pac-12 Championship was staged a month ago at Ruby Hill Golf Club.
But Wednesday the defending champion Cardinal and the young and plucky Huskies will meet for the NCAA Division I Championship after a pair of wins each Tuesday at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore.
In retrospect, there is the realization that the Pac-12 was clearly the deepest and most talented conference in the country. But Stanford’s veterans knew the time to really turn it up was still to come. And Washington’s youngsters, well maybe nobody told them that they were too inexperienced to end up on the brink of a national championship.
Stanford, No. 12 in the latest Golfstat rankings, found itself staring at another veteran team that turned it up in Eugene as the Cardinal squared off against No. 4 Duke in the semifinals.
Mariah Stackhouse, a senior from Riverdale, Ga., epitomizes veteran leadership and she claimed a 3 and 2 victory over Duke’s Gurbani Singh, a sophomore from India, to get the Cardinal started. Stanford also got a 1-up victory from Casey Danielson, a junior from Osceola, Wis., over Leona Maguire, a sophomore from Ireland and the top-ranked amateur player in the world, and Sierra Kersten, a freshman from Spokane, Wash., over Celine Boutier, a senior from France.
It added up to a 3-2 victory for Stanford, which has the chance to repeat in the second year of the new match-play format.
Washington, ranked 13th, couldn’t have been surprised to be facing Pac-12 rival UCLA, ranked third, in the semifinals.
And it came down to Sarah Rhee, a freshman from Seattle, looking very much like she was going to fall to the Bruins’ Louise Ridderstrom, a senior from Sweden. But Rhee won the last three holes to send the match to extra holes. All she did then was hole out a bunker shot for a birdie to beat Ridderstrom and give Washington a 3-1-1 victory and a spot in the final.
Washington’s other two wins also came from its freshman New Zealanders as Julianne Alvarez edged Bethany Wu, a freshman from Diamond Bar, Calif., 1-up, and Wenyung Keh downed Hadas Libman, a junior from Israel, 2 and 1.
In the quarterfinals earlier Tuesday, Stanford edged No. 8 South Carolina, 3-2, again getting key wins from its veterans. Danielson claimed a 4 and 3 victory over the Gamecocks’ Sarah Schmelzel, a senior from Phoenix, Ariz., and Stackhouse edged Marion Verysseyre, a freshman from France, 2-up.
Washington claimed a 3-1-1 win over ACC champion No. 15 Virginia. The key win for Huskies was a 4 and 3 victory for Charlotte Thomas, a senior from England, over ACC individual champion Lauren Coughlin, a senior from Chesapeake, Va.
The marquee quarterfinal matchup pitted Duke against No. 2 Southern California. And the Blue Devils typically peaked at the right time, claiming a 4-1 win over the talented Pac-12 champion Trojans. Duke’s runaway winner of the individual crown a day earlier, Virginia Elenthe a Carta, a freshman from Italy, claimed a 3 and 2 victory over Tiffany Chan, a junior from Hong Kong.
UCLA’s quarterfinal opponent was the fifth Pac-12 team that qualified for match play, host Oregon, ranked 20th. The Bruins, who had earned the top seed in match play during four rounds of stroke play, claimed a 4-0-1 victory with Lilia Vu, a freshman from Fountain Valley, Calif., edging Caroline Inglis, a senior from Eugene, Ore., 1-up.