HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. -- Williams went from six shots down at the turn to a six-shot lead heading into Friday's fourth and final round at the 2015 NCAA championship.
"The back nine was pretty amazing," Eph head coach Bill Kangas said. "The kids felt they missed some opportunities on the front, but they didn't miss them on the back. Best part of the back nine was that everyone played well. It's something we can build on for [Friday]. We just have to go out and play that way again. Focus on our team goals, be patient, and stay with the process."
Williams shot 309, which is the best round of the tournament through three rounds. The Ephs' three-day total of 950 leads second-place Washington (Mo.) by six shots and Wittenberg by eight.
This is the first time in eight trips to the NCAA tournament that the Ephs have carried the lead into the fourth round. The Ephs' best finish at the NCAA tournament thus far is third place in 2014.
After six holes, the Ephs had managed 10 pars on the 30 holes played and they were hurting themselves with 14 bogeys, and four double bogeys. The Ephs battled back to trail Washington by six shots at the turn.
Freshman Phoebe Mattana led the Ephs on the front nine, carding a two-over-par 38 and next came captain Shelby Shote with a four-over 40. Sophomores Sophie Kitchen, Sarah Hasselman and Tracey Kim all shot six-over 42s.
After the turn, the Ephs had a barrage of pars, birdies and an eagle (by Tracey Kim) and Williams turned a six-shot deficit into a six-shot lead by the end of the round.
On the last nine holes, Kitchen went one-under, Kim was one-under and Hasselman was two-over as the second years played the back nine at even par as a group.
It wasn't just the sophomores who stepped up their game on the second loop as Mattana mirrored her two-over on the front with the same score on the back and Shote chopped a stroke off her front-nine score.
When the round ended it was Mattana with the Ephs' low score of 76, followed by Kitchen and Kim with 77s, Shote shot 78, and Hasselman carded an 80.
Highlighting Kim's stellar back nine were the first three holes where she went birdie, eagle, par. Her back nine included five pars, two bogeys, a birdie and an eagle.
Kitchen notched three birdies on the last five holes to secure her one under on the second nine.
Mattana was the model of consistency for the Ephs posting a four-over that featured 11 pars and two birdies.
Shelby Shote struggled early, but kept fighting and authored a back nine that contained seven pars.
In the field of 118 golfers the Ephs have three players in the top eight with Kitchen tied for fifth and Kim and Mattana tied for eighth. Mattana's 76 jumped her 10 places in the standings.
McKenzie Ralston of Mary Hardin-Baylor leads the individual play with a three-round total of 224. Kitchen is at 231, while Mattana and Kim are at 238.