NCAA Women's Golf Championships: Arizona State overtakes Stanford to advance to final

Thunderstorms and impending darkness on Tuesday evening in Sugar Grove, Illinois combined to set up a pair of dramatic finishes for the three Pac-12 teams remaining in the NCAA Women's Golf Championships semifinals. After play resumed early Wednesday morning, Arizona State capped an improbable comeback win over Stanford to advance to the national final this afternoon and USC fell agonizingly short to Northwestern on an extra hole.

[Related: 2017 NCAA Women's Golf Championships semifinals scores (NCAA.com)]

Arizona State

Stanford

To set the scene as play resumed, the Stanford had already clinched two matches on Tuesday and was leading a third match through 17 holes. Arizona State had clinched one match of its own, while the match between Madie Chou (Stanford) and Linnea Strom (Arizona State) was all square.

It was at that point the Sun Devils, on the verge of elimination, requested play be halted because of darkening conditions. Their request was granted as under NCAA rules governing play in darkness, both teams must agree to continue before starting a new hole. Play would be resumed Wednesday starting at 9 a.m. local time.

When the teams hit the course this morning, ASU capitalized on a fresh start and quickly seized momentum. NCAA individual champion Monica Vaughn made her move quickly, nearly holing a short approach shot from in front of the green to even her match with the Cardinal's Albane Valenzuela all square through 18. 

Vaughn wasted no time, winning the first extra hole to pull the overall match even at 2-2. Everything came down to Strom and Chou Both women halved their first two holes of the morning on 17 and 18 to remain all square through regulation. Following a familiar script, it was the Sun Devil's Strom that prevailed in the first extra hole, this time sending ASU to the national title match.

USC

In the other semifinal, things were less decided headed into Wednesday morning's action. USC narrowly led four of five matches against Northwestern (Muni He's 2 up over Kacie Komoto through 13 being the largest margin), but had not yet officially clinched any matches.

The overall match score quickly seesawed early on as Northwestern hit the course hot. The Wildcats officially got on the leaderboard first when Sarah Cho clinched her match over Victoria Morgan, 2&1. 

Just a few minutes later, the Trojans' Robynn Ree fell to Hannah Kim, also 2&1. Down 2-0, USC needed to rally to win all of their remaining matches, which didn't seem impossible as they held leads in all of their remaining matches. Tiffany Chan was the first to lock up a point and cut the deficit to 2-1 when she defeated Northwestern's Stephanie Lau, 2&1.

Things wouldn't be so simple for the two remaining Trojan golfers. He and Gabby Then were each pushed to extra holes, with He clinching hers quickly after 19 to pull the match even at 2-2. All eyes focused on Then and NU's Janet Mao.

Both golfers missed the fairway, with Mao landed in a sand trap near the green and Then nestling into the rough just off the green. Each player made strong approach shots to get on the green and Mao sunk her putt first to put the pressure on the USC senior. Needing to drain a roughly six-foot putt to force a second playoff hole, Then's shot stopped mere inches short and clinched the match for Northwestern.

Arizona State and Northwestern will square off for the NCAA title starting at 1 p.m. PT on the Golf Channel.

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