It isn’t midnight yet.
The Cinderella story for Ole Miss women’s golf continues, as the fourth-seeded Rebels put together two superb match wins over No. 5 Texas in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals and No. 8 Arizona in the semifinals to advance to just the second NCAA team final in the history of Ole Miss Athletics.
It took a monumental effort to get to this point, but Ole Miss showed no quit despite a very quick turnaround from a whirlwind final day of tournament action on Monday. The Rebels made the cut from tournament play as the No. 4 seed and had to turn around for a 7 a.m. local time tee time against Texas in the quarterfinal.
It took every ounce of strength to get past the Longhorns in a 3-2 victory that featured two sudden-death matches, but the Rebels didn’t let fatigue catch up with them, dispatching the Wildcats in regulation this time, 3-2, less than two hours later.
“There was a lot of golf played today, that’s for sure, and I’m just really proud of the girls. They didn’t give up,” head coach Kory Henkes said. “It’s a great opportunity for our program to play at this high of a level, and I think, ‘Why not us?’ We’ve worked hard like every other team here, so why not Ole Miss?”
Ole Miss will have a date with No. 3 Oklahoma State in the NCAA title match on Wednesday, with tee time set for 3:35 p.m. CT live on the GOLF Channel.
This is the first time since men’s tennis finished as the runners-up in 1995 that a Rebel team has advanced to an NCAA team final. Ole Miss claims three national championships in football from 1959, 1960 and 1962, which at the time required at least one entity to vote for a team to be No. 1 in their final poll to be declared a national champion.
QUARTERFINAL VS. TEXAS
An already historic week in Scottsdale continued for the Rebels as they advanced past Texas 3-2 in sudden death to complete the comeback and secure their spot in the semifinals. Andrea Lignell emerged victorious, needing 22 holes to tie things up, and freshman Smilla Sonderby stepped on the national stage and made the decisive putt, capping off the thriller on the 21st hole of her match.
After falling behind a stroke on the first hole of the day, Kennedy Swann battled to tie things up with a nice chip on No. 12 and never looked back. The Austin native led all but three holes and drained four birdie putts to win her match 4&3 and get the Rebels on the board.
Julia Johnson and Chiara Tamburlini had nice mornings on the course. Johnson and Tamburlini were both locked in tight contests and were tied with Texas through nine. Down three strokes with five holes to play, Johnson and Tamburlini each worked their way back into the match but fell 2&1, giving the Longhorns a 2-1 lead.
Lignell was locked in a tight contest with Texas’ Kaitlyn Papp as the one-stroke lead went back-and-forth between the two competitors. Following another eagle on No. 7 for Lignell, Papp managed to tie things up and send the match into playoff holes.
The Gothenburg, Sweden, native nailed a clutch putt on stay even with Papp through the first two playoff holes. She put the pressure on the Longhorns with a nice chip on the green and capitalized on a Longhorn miss the following hole to stay alive and extend the match. Finally, on No. 22, the sophomore sunk the birdie putt to even the quarterfinal up at two.
Sonderby had quite the afternoon on the Grayhawk course. She held a brief lead in the first four holes and managed to keep her match close through 14 holes. After a bogey on No. 6, Sonderby fell down two strokes, but she used back-to-back birdies to tie things up and force playoff action.
All knotted up after the first hole, Sonderby’s second shot went into the water. Unfazed by the pressure, she knocked her next shot within four feet of the pin and saved par, keeping the Rebel hopes alive. With ice in her veins, the freshman capped off the comeback and helped Ole Miss advance to the semifinals with a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Longhorns.
SEMIFINAL VS. ARIZONA
Ole Miss didn’t have long to rest on its laurels following its dramatic win over Texas in the quarterfinal, as Arizona awaited them in a quick turnaround for the semifinal match. The Rebels were able to take care of this one without the need for playoff holes this time around, defeating the Wildcats, 3-2, to advance to just the second NCAA final in Ole Miss Athletics history.
Palmer Cup invitee Johnson cast the deciding vote vs. Arizona, sinking par on the 17th hole to avenge a narrow loss in her match vs. Texas, defeating Arizona’s Ya Chun Chang, 2&1. Johnson first went 2-up No. 10, and then permanently on No. 13 – event going 3-up briefly on No. 15 before closing it out two holes later.
Swann was superb again, winning her first three holes and never looking back to get the Rebels on the board first. Arizona’s Vivian Hou battled back with a two-hole stretch of her own from Nos. 5-6, but Swann bounced back in powerful form, winning three in a row again from Nos. 9-11. Swann has been untouchable in match play throughout her collegiate career, now standing at a 7-1 career record.
Lignell was the benefactor by the end of a 1-up stalemate battle with Arizona’s Gile Bite Starkute. Lignell went 2-up on No. 7 and held that lead for four more holes before Starkute won No. 12. For the remaining six holes, though, Lignell held firm, eventually sinking a putt for par on No. 18 to take the point for Ole Miss.
Tamburlini held a lead into the back-9 vs. Arizona’s Therese Warner, but Warner chased down three wins and a tie across a four-hole stretch to take a 2-up lead at No. 13 that ended up holding for the 2&1 decision. However, Tamburlini still ended up with the best approach from a Par 3 all day, nearly sinking the hole-in-one on No. 16 as she cut the lead then to just 1-up.
Sonderby – the hero of the quarterfinal match vs. Texas – had a tight battle with Arizona’s Yu-Sang Hou over the first nine holes, tying the first two holes and holding her lead to just 1-up after the first nine. Hou turned in on over the back nine, though, ending with a 2&1 victory.
Final Results – Quarterfinal vs. Texas (W, 3-2)
1. Swann (Ole Miss) def. Guo (Texas) – 4&3
2. Lignell (Ole Miss) def. Papp (Texas) – 22 holes
3. Kouskova (Texas) def. Johnson (Ole Miss) – 2&1
4. Laisne (Texas) def. Tamburlini (Ole Miss) – 2&1
5. Sonderby (Ole Miss) def. Park (Texas) – 21 holes
Final Results – Semifinal vs. Arizona (W, 3-2)
1. Swann (Ole Miss) def. V. Hou (Arizona) – 3&2
2. Lignell (Ole Miss) def. Starkute (Arizona) – 1-up
3. Warner (Arizona) def. Tamburlini (Ole Miss) – 2&1
4. Johnson (Ole Miss) def. Chang (Arizona) – 2&1
5. Y. Hou (Arizona) def. Sonderby (Ole Miss) – 2&1
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports