SHOAL CREEK, Ala. -- Junior Kacie Komoto sits atop the individual leaderboard after 36 holes, pacing three Wildcats inside the Top 6, and No. 2 Northwestern leads the Shoal Creek Regional by six strokes heading into Saturday's final round.
The Wildcats are ahead of second-place Florida State (+20) and third-place Oklahoma State (+20).
In a 96-player field without a single student-athlete under-par after two rounds, Komoto ascended to the tournament lead by playing mistake-free golf on Friday. The Honolulu native parred the first 14 holes of the day, part of a tournament-leading 29 pars through two days, on her way to a 1-over 73. The ranking veteran in the Wildcats lineup this weekend shares the lead with Matilda Castren of Florida State at 1-over heading into Round 3.
Sophomore Sarah Cho fired the low round of the day for Northwestern on Friday, an even-par 72, to climb ten spots up the leaderboard into sole possession of fifth-place after two rounds.
Freshman Janet Mao carded a second-straight 2-over 74 on Friday to rise to sixth-place on the leaderboard. Following a twelfth-place finish at the 2016 Big Ten Championships, the rookie is in the midst of her strongest run of play at the most important time of the season.
Shoal Creek Club has presented the stiffest challenge Northwestern has faced this season, with the average score more than six strokes above par (72) at 78.66 after two days.
The back-to-back Big Ten Champions are participating in their seventh consecutive NCAA Regional under conference Coach of the Year Emily Fletcher. The Wildcats are in search of their fourth straight berth in the NCAA Championships, following a program-best 10th-place result last season at Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida.
The Wildcats competition in the 18-team field includes four opponents currently ranked in the Top-20 of the Golfstat rankings, and eight more ranked in the Top-50. No. 1 seed Alabama (Ranked No. 1 in the nation), No. 3 Oklahoma State (9), No. 4 California (16) and No. 5 Iowa State (17) join No. 2 Northwestern (8) to make up the top five seeds at Shoal Creek.
The remainder of the lineup includes sixth-seeded Florida State (22); No. 7 Tennessee (25); No. 8 Missouri (32); No. 9 Purdue (36); No. 10 Notre Dame (40); No. 11 Vanderbilt (41); No. 12 Clemson (47); No. 13 Michigan (50); No. 14 Middle Tennessee State; No. 15 New Mexico State; No. 16 Eastern Kentucky; No. 17 Oakland (Mich.) and No. 18 Alabama State.
The Top-6 teams after 54 holes (and Top-3 individuals not on one of those teams) will advance to the 2016 NCAA Championships on May 20-25 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon.