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Written by Andie Hagemann, USC blog contributor

The top-ranked USC women's golf program is determined to clinch the 2013 NCAA Championship. During the past three seasons, USC has fallen just short of the title twice, including by only one stroke last year.

Popov-NG-13-PC.jpg"I think the rough part was that we lost in the last five holes after leading by four or five shots," said junior Sophia Popov. "When I was finished, I went to look at the scores and I saw our last players coming in. I knew then that it had turned around. It was a sad ending to the season."

The devastating loss gave Popov the motivation to work even harder during the 2012-13 season. "Not everyone experiences a loss like that," Popov said. "I gained a lot of experience through that and I feel that I am more mentally prepared for it."

With a roster lacking senior leadership and boasting five freshmen, program veterans Sophia Popov and Rachel Morris have taken the young team under their wing. "Rachel and I have taken over the roles of team captains. I have only been in this program for three years now but I feel I have been through many experiences here," Popov said. "Rachel and I know what it feels like to lose by one shot. We told the girls that this cannot happen and that we need to place an equal importance on every shot until the end, no matter how well or how poorly you are playing."

Two regular season tournaments remain for the Women of Troy before they embark on postseason play. Popov is using the extra time to make necessary adjustments to her game before the postseason commences.

"I'm not placing as much importance on these regular season tournaments. I'm playing different in a sense that I'm working on my swing and making changes to my game, trying things out while I still have the time before the postseason," Popov said. "I have two more tournaments to try out things and tweak a couple things in my swing. This is something that is a little different than in the past two seasons."

The 2012-13 team has been on a roll and currently possess a two-event win streak. Popov credits the team's success to the undeniable chemistry with one another. "I think our team is extremely close this year. The team dynamics are amazing and everyone gets along extremely well," Popov said. "Everyone respects each other and knows what we are all capable of. We know that everyone else on the team has our back."

2013 might be the year for the Women of Troy to finally clinch that NCAA Championship and perhaps an individual title for Popov. "My swing is good, I am playing well and have been a lot more consistent this year. I'm just going to go in there and see what happens," Popov said. "Team wins feel so much better than individual wins. The team becomes filled with so much energy. I am focused on the team title and playing well individually will help."

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