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UCLA women’s golf falls in NCAA finals, misses chance at first title since 2011

Members of UCLA women’s golf stand together with their runners-up trophies. (Joseph Crosby/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Women’s Golf

No. 6 seed UCLA2
No. 1 seed Stanford3

By Sabrina Baker

May 22, 2024 8:40 p.m.

This post was updated May 24 at 1:38 a.m.

Winning a national championship puts a team in the upper echelons of its respective sport.

In collegiate sports, two schools reign supreme in national trophies: UCLA and Stanford.

Stanford’s figure – while already enough to lead the duplet – extended to 138 Wednesday evening. 

No. 6 seed UCLA women’s golf fell to No. 1 seed Stanford 3-2 in the NCAA finals at the Omni La Costa North Course in Carlsbad, California. The match marked the Bruins’ first finals appearance since the match play format was introduced to the NCAA tournament in 2015 and their first under coach Alicia Um Holmes.

“Alicia has done a really good job of coaching us and telling us to stick to our process,” said junior Zoe Antoinette Campos. “And that’s what we did. ‘Love’ was the big word we used this week, and that’s what we have for each other and for the game.”

Campos’ 4&3 victory against Stanford’s Sadie Englemann made UCLA’s first imprint on the scoreboard. 

Campos was on the opposite end of the 4&3 score in her match yesterday, where she fell to Oregon’s Kiara Romero.

“It felt good to get a win after yesterday,” Campos said. “Just getting a point on the board for the team was really important even though we didn’t win.”

Junior Caroline Canales won all three of her matches throughout the tournament. Despite being one down against Stanford’s Paula Martín Sampedro through the first four holes, Canales claimed the fifth to even the scoreboard. 

Junior Caroline Canales follows through on her swing. Canales won all three of her match play games. (Joseph Crosby/Daily Bruin senior staff)

From the sixth hole onward, Canales continued to obstruct Martín Sampedro’s vision of victory. 

“There’s been a lot of good golf,” Canales said. “We’re going to try and focus on that.”

Before UCLA even reached match play finals, it had to tick by a series of tests.

The Bruins finished the first three rounds of stroke play with a 10-over 874, finishing sixth and advancing to the next stroke play round.

After the final round of stroke play, UCLA was knotted up with No. 7 seed Oregon at sixth place, with a score of 19-over 1171.

“We tried not to get too ahead of ourselves,” Um Holmes said. “We try to stay in the present and take it day by day.”

Campos – a WGCA Player of the Year finalist – finished stroke play in a tie for 10th place with a score of even-par 288. She jumped up seven positions on the leaderboard during the final stroke play round while no other Bruins placed in the top 20.

Junior Zoe Antoinette Campos swings to strike the ball. Campos was the first to put UCLA on the board against Stanford. (Joseph Crosby/Daily Bruin senior staff)

UCLA faced No. 3 seed Texas A&M in the first round of match play. The Bruins claimed the first three matches – led by sophomore Meghan Royal’s one-up victory. The final two matches remained unfinished.

“We didn’t get too overly down after the front nine against Texas A&M,” Um Holmes said. “That made a difference just in our demeanor, like how we approached the holes coming in and what kind of energy we projected to the student athletes.”

In the semifinals – featuring solely Pac-12 programs – UCLA met Oregon. The Bruins defeated the Ducks 3-1, as Canales, Royal and junior Natalie Vo won their respective matches. Canales tore through Oregon’s Karen Tsuru 7&5, carving in the largest win across both semifinal rounds.

All roads thus led the Bruins to the final.

Despite two triumphant days on the course, Royal struggled against Stanford’s Kelly Xu early in the finals – dropping to two down in as many holes. 

The Arkansas transfer fought her way back to one down on the sixth hole – a temporary stunt. Entering the back nine four down, she once again narrowed the gap to two, another short-lasting promise as she fell short of the comeback with a 4&3 loss.

Senior Kate Villegas and Vo similarly fell short against their Cardinal foes.

UCLA is a year removed from another shot at national glory – and its first since 2011. But with just one face on the roster changing, the Bruins will enter their first season in the Big Ten with a seasoned lineup.

“There is a lot to be proud of this year,” Canales said. “Even though it is a heartbreaking end, we have a lot to be happy about.”

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Sabrina Baker | Sports contributor
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
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