USC Athletics

Led by senior Lizette Salas, No. 2 USC opened the 2011 spring season on a strong note, building a five-stroke lead after the first round of the 2011 Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge on Monday at the Palos Verdes (Calif.) G.C.

USC, the event's defending champion, finished the first round at 6-over 290, five strokes better than second-place Pepperdine (295). UCLA was third (296) in the 13-team field with ASU fourth (298).

All five Trojans playing finished among the top-10 on Monday, led by Salas's par 71, good for third place, one off the lead. Junior Inah Park was fourth (72), junior Lisa McCloskey tied for fifth (73) while freshman Sophia Popov and sophomore Cyna Rodriguez tied for ninth (74).

Salas finished with three birdies against three bogeys. She was 1-over after 13 but birdied the 17th hole to get back to even.

Park's solid round featured three birdies as well. She was 2-over until back-to-back birdies on 7 and 7. Bogeys on 13 and 14 cost her two strokes, but she got a birdie on 16 to get back to 1-over.

McCloskey, the tournament's individual defending champion who opened the season with four top-10 finishes, continued her steady play Monday. She was 1-over on both the front and back 9.

Popov, who was a winner in her last event, the Pac-10/SEC Challenge, was at par through 12 holes before bogeys on 13, 17 and 18. Rodriguez was 1-over on the front 9 and 2-over on the back 9.