Defending NCAA Champion USC Kicks Off 2013-14 Season Monday
Sep 6, 2013
Not much more than 100 days after one of the most dominating performances in postseason golf history, the defending NCAA champion USC women's golf team, ranked No. 1, kicks off the 2013-14 season at the 2013 Fall Preview, Monday through Wednesday (Sept 9-11), at the Tulsa (Okla.). C.C.
The Trojans, under the guidance of three-time national coach of the year Andrea Gaston, return all five players from last year's team that won the NCAA team title by a record 21 strokes, four of them All-Americans. Gaston has also added a pair of top prep golfers that makes USC arguably the most talented team, from top to bottom, in the nation.
USC's complete returning starting lineup features seniors Sophia Popov and Rachel Morris, junior Doris Chen and sophomores Annie Park and Kyung Kim. Park, Popov and Kim were WGCA All-American first teamers last year while Chen was second team. Morris earned All-Pac-12 honors.
The Trojans finished the season by winning all three postseason events, sweeping the Pac-12, NCAA West Regional and NCAA Championships.
Four of the five starters (all but Morris) will kick off the campaign this week in Tulsa in a 15-team field. Then claimed the fifth spot for this year's season opener.
The annual Fall Preview, held at the site of the eventual NCAA Championship course, is traditionally a stacked field, and this year is no different with 12 of the 15 teams finishing in the top 21 of last year's NCAAs.
In addition to USC and host Tulsa, the field includes Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Duke Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Texas, Tulane and Vanderbilt.
Action kicks off at 8 a.m. CT each day. Results will be available at Golfstat.com.
Some brief notes on this year's team and last year's remarkable season
Annie Park was the 2013 WGCA National and Freshman Player of the Year, the Pac-12 Player of the Year and won the Honda Sports Award for Women's Golf. She won four individual titles, including postseason wins at the NCAA, NCAA Regional and Pac-12 Championships. She was just the second NCAA woman to sweep conference, regional and NCAA titles in the same season.
Senior Sophia Popov earned WGCA All-American and Pac-12 first team honors last year. A three-time All-American, she won her school-record-tying fifth tournament as a junior, one of seven top 10 finishes, which included six of her final seven starts.
Junior Doris Chen was a WGCA All-American second teamer last year with four top 10 finishes. This summer, she was a finalist at the U.S. Public Links, a semifinalist at the U.S. Amateur and made the cut at the U.S. Open.
Sophomore Kyung Kim earned WGCA All-American first team honors as a freshman. She had one win among her six top 10 finishes and led the team with six rounds in the 60s, including a school-record 63.
Senior Rachel Morris earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors after her best season as a Trojan, which included seven top 22 finishes in her final eight events, including a stretch of three top 10s in a row. One of two Trojans to play every round last season, she also earned Pac-12 All-Academic first team notice.
Sophomore Kim Santiago played in seven events as a freshman, three as a starter, and was part of USC's win at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Sophomore Victoria Morgan joined the team midway through the season last year and provided solid depth in the lineup. Sophomore Ellie Chai, who only recently overcame a long-time shoulder injury, played twice as a freshman last season.
Incoming freshman Gabriella Then enters USC fresh off winning the prestigious U.S. Girls' Junior title in July and also played in the U.S. Open. She and fellow top recruit Karen Chung, a Public Links quarterfinalist this year who has represented the U.S. at the Jr. Ryder Cup, will help give USC as tough a lineup as any in the nation.
Andrea Gaston earned her third WGCA National Coach of the Year honor and her second Pac-12 Coach of the Year award. She led USC to a school-record seven wins this year, including collecting USC's fourth conference title, its NCAA record ninth regional title and the program's third NCAA title.
Golf Digest recently published its annual "50 Top Players To Watch" and it featured Park at No. 2, Popov at No. 3, Kim at No. 9 and Chen and Then among the field of No. 11-50.
The Trojans finished the NCAA Championships last year at 19-under 1133 (284-276-285-288), shattering the previous NCAA Championship record for most strokes under par, which was previously four (UCLA, 2004).
With last year's NCAA title, USC extended its NCAA leading streak of top 5 NCAA finishes to 8 and has 14 top 5 finishes overall, tied for second most with UCLA. Arizona State has the most at 16. USC is now one of only five schools with at least three NCAA team titles. Arizona State has seven, Duke has five while USC joins San Jose State and UCLA at three.
The NCAA title extended USC's season-win record to seven and followed victories in the 2013 NCAA West Regional and the 2013 Pac-12 Championships. The NCAA crown complements Trojan national titles in 2003 (by 15 strokes) and 2008 (by six strokes) and is USC's sixth win in the past seven events this year.
USC's second-round 276 set the NCAA Championship record for low round and was the second-best round in school history.