No. 2 USC repeats as challenge champ
Battling rainy weather and a sluggish start, No. 2 USC, led by senior Lizette Salas and freshman Sophia Popov, rallied midway through the final round -- from third to first -- to claim its second consecutive title at the 2011 Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge on Wednesday at the Palos Verdes (Calif.) G.C.
USC began the day two strokes back of first-place UCLA with Pepperdine in third. But the three teams, paired together, struggled in the early morning due to inclement weather and fell in the standings as fourth-place Arizona State surged to first.
But as the skies cleared and the conditions improved, USC found its sea legs and the bottom of the cup just enough times to hold off its Pac-10 and local rivals.
Troy finished at 32-over 884 (290-295-299), two strokes ahead of the Sun Devils (886) and three ahead of UCLA (887). Wake Forest moved into a tie for fourth with Pepperdine (895).
Salas (71-77-73) and Popov (74-74-73) tied for seventh at 8-over 221. Salas, who notched her third top-10 finish in four outings this season, started the day with four bogeys in five holes. But she settled down and finished the final 12 holes at 2-under, which included three birdies.
Popov had the steadiest day of any Trojan for the second round in a row. Starting on the 3rd hole in the shotgun start, she bogeyed 4, doubled 12 and birdied 14 for her 2-over round. After winning her first tournament in November, she now has back-to-back top-10 finishes.
Junior Lisa McCloskey, the tournament's defending champion, found the going tough in the early morning start and was 5-over after six holes. But she finished the final two thirds of the round at 1-over to finish tied for 11th at 9-over 222 (73-72-77).
Sophomore Cyna Rodriguez tied for 16th at 11-over 224 (74-74-76) while junior Inah Park tied for 27th at 15-over 227 (72-75-80).
Trojan freshman Rachel Morris, playing individually, tied for 16th as well at 11-over 224. It is her second top 20 finish this season.