Gaston NGCA National Coach Of The Year|
May 22, 2011
USC 15th-year head coach Andrea Gaston, who led USC to four wins, including at the 2011 Pac-10s and NCAA West Regional, was named the National Golf Coaches Association National Coach of the Year while Sophia Popov, who won three times among eight top 7 finishes, claimed NGCA National Freshman of the Year, it was announced late following the 2011 NCAA Championships.
In addition, senior Lizette Salas and Popov were both tabbed as NGCA All-American first teamers and junior Lisa McCloskey was selected as a second teamer. Salas becomes USC's first women's golfer to earn four career All-American honors.
Gaston's NGCA national award is her second. She won her first after USC won its second NCAA title in 2008. The Trojans, ranked No. 1 for much of the 2011 season, finished tied for fifth at this year's NCAA Championships (albeit shorthanded with one of its top players out due to an injury), marking the 11th time Gaston has guided Troy to a top seven NCAA finish and eighth in the top 5.
"This is totally unexpected," Gaston said. "I'm truly honored to receive this award and to be considered among such an impressive and deserving group of coaches."
Popov is the second Freshman of the Year under Gaston. The German native who had a streak of eight straight top 7 finishes heading into the NCAAs, won titles at the Pac-10 Championships, PING/ASU Invitational and the Pac-10/SEC Challenge and was third at the NCAA West Regional. Popov was ranked as high as No. 2 this season and her 72.16 stroke average was the seventh-best in school history. She had a team-best seven rounds in the 60s.
Salas finishes USC with two first-team and two second-team All-American honors. She led USC in stroke average in 2011 with a 71.87, the fourth-best season average in school history (she also owns the third-best). She had seven top 7 finishes this year and eight in the top 14. She, like Popov, was ranked as high as No. 2 this year. She tied for sixth at the 2011 Pac-10s and was second at the NCAA West Regional. Her 14 career rounds in the 60s is second-most ever at USC.
McCloskey, ranked in the top 5 this season, got off to a fast start as a Trojan with six top 11 finishes and earned 2011 All-Pac-10 first team honors, but a rib injury suffered during the 2011 Pac-10s ended her season prematurely. Her season-best round of 64 at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Invitational, which included nine birdies and one bogey, tied Irene Cho's school record set at the 2006 Guadalajara Invitational. It broke USC's best round by a Trojan on American soil, which belonged to Salas. Her 72.00 stroke average is fifth-best ever at USC.
Salas, Popov and freshman Rachel Morris also all earned All-NCAA West Region honors.