COLUMBIA, SC - South Carolina may have already been through the gauntlet in women's tennis but now a NCAA Championship is on the line for the Gamecocks.
USC will be compete for a national title this weekend in Sugar Grove, Ill at Rich Harvest Farms.
The Gamecocks came from 8 strokes back to win the Columbus Region championship in their last outing. They tied for first with Florida to win their third straight regional title and the fifth in the 8 years.
Freshman Ana Pelaez out of Malaga, Spain won the individual region title. She finished two under and shot a 70 in the final round. Not bad for the first career win for the rookie on one of the biggest stages of the season for South Carolina.
"For my first year that's something that feels pretty good," Pelaez said. I got there and I never thought about it. It was not a surprise. I think we all practiced to finally win the tournament."
USC has now won back to back region titles with senior Katelyn Dambaugh winning the Baton Rouge regional last year.
Associate head coach Puggy Blackmon believes the team's depth will be one of their biggest assets heading into the finals. Not only that but the team's resolve has been on display after shooting 20 over in the opening round of the Regionals and still rallying to win it.
"I think with this group we've been through it all. We've been up and down but we realized we don't have to play our best. We just have to be really focused and extremely patient. The only way you can play golf its one hole at a time and that's what we're good at."
Dambaugh comes in with USC's lowest career stroke average the number four amateur ranking in the world. She's expecting some great things from her teammates and herself this weekend.
"I think we're really confident in our games and where we are. We have good chemistry, we have fun with each other and you know we cheer each other on on the golf course and we keep each other positive. I think we believe in ourselves that we can do some really big things."
The opening round of the NCAA championships is this Friday. The Golf Channel will air coverage of the NCAA women's golf finals May 22-24.
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