Stanford nears third NCAA match-play final

Perhaps only rain and darkness kept top-ranked Stanford from reaching the match-play final of the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships for third straight year on Tuesday.

The Cardinal led Arizona State, 3-1-1, and USC was ahead of Northwestern, 4-1, in the semifinals when play was halted as darkness closed in at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.

The teams will return to finish the semis on Wednesday morning and the final will be played in the afternoon.

Freshman Albane Venezuela of Stanford was on the verge of giving the Cardinal its winning point with a 1-up lead on Monica Vaughn of Arizona State, who won the NCAA individual title on Tuesday, after both hit solid drives on the 18th hole.

That’s when Vaughn decided it was too dark to continue, which she is entitled to do.

“It is pretty obvious,” Stanford Coach Anne Walker said. “Albane had the momentum going into this hole and I think that was an opportunity for them to stop that momentum and take some time to regroup and come out tomorrow morning.

“At the end of the day, we’ll come out here, they are both sitting pretty so it will be like a par-4 off of the fairway and we’ll see what happens.”

Casey Danielson (pictured) gave Stanford a 3-and-2 victory over Sophia Zebb and Shannon Aubert downed Roberta Lita, 4 and 3. Olivia Mehaffey gave Arizona State a point by defeating Andrea Lee, 2 and 1, and the Cardinal’s Madie Chou was even with Linnea Strom through 16 holes.

Danielson ran her record to 7-1 in NCAA match-play after also defeating Fiona Liddell of Baylor, 3 and 2, as Stanford beat the Bears, 3-2, in the quarterfinals early in the day in a replay of the 2015 NCAA Champion match.

“I wake up with a little edge in the morning,” Danielson said. “I just want to go out there and compete, play my best and hit it close and feel the intensity. In an event like this, I just play for my team. I love my team and I love the energy that we have out here.”

In the other semifinal, Robin Ree of USC held a 1-up advantage over Hannah Kim of Northwestern after 14 holes, Muni He led Kacie Komoto, 2 up through 13, Gabriela Then had a 1-up edge over Janet Mao after 12 holes and Tiffany Chan was 1 up over Stephanie Lau through 11 holes.

Sarah Cho had Northwestern’s only lead at 1 up over Victoria Morgan after 15 holes.

“They’re exhausted, there’s nothing more you can say,” USC Coach Andrea Gaston said. “Let’s go eat, let’s get some rest, let’s figure out what time we’re leaving in the morning, what are we wearing and get some dry clothes.”

In the other quarterfinal matches in the morning, USC downed Ohio State, 3-1-1, Arizona State routed Florida, 5-0, and Northwestern got past Kent State, 3-2.

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