East Lake Cup: Vanderbilt, USC roll as final match play pairings are set for Wednesday
Two days, two rounds of golf and two impeccably sunny skies are in the books at East Lake Golf Club, and with one day of the East Lake Cup to go, the final match play groupings are set: Vanderbilt’s men will face Illinois and USC’s women will take on upstart Arizona State.
As for consolation matches, Oregon men will play Oklahoma and Northwestern women will face Stanford.
In Tuesday’s roaring action, each side of the bracket saw plenty of late drama, including a No. 1 seed nearly falling on the women’s side.
After Stanford dominated Monday’s individual stroke play, winning by six strokes, the Cardinal entered Tuesday as match play’s No. 1 seed, featuring two golfers — defending champion Andrea Lee and Shannon Aubert — who tied for second in stroke play. However, No. 4 seed Arizona State leaned on superb play from Olivia Mehaffey and a one-point 18th hole win by Linnea Strom to push all the gravity of the afternoon to an 18th hole tie between ASU's Roberta Liti and Stanford's Albane Valenzuela.
In the end, Liti just barely missed a long birdie putt to save the Sun Devils' upset hopes, and Liti put the Cardinal in the final match with her own birdie for a one-point victory.
Tuesday’s second women’s match wasn’t as dramatic, as three of USC’s five finished their matches vs. Northwestern with two holes to go. The Wildcats’ Hannah Kim scored Northwestern's only win of the day, a 3 & 2 victory over Muni He.
On the men’s side, there was an overwhelming sense of deja vu as Oklahoma squared up with Illinois and Vanderbilt took on Oregon.
If those pairings feel familiar, it’s because the same teams faced off in May’s DI semifinals. Weird, right?
In May, Oregon and Oklahoma both prevailed before the Sooners won its second-ever national championship; this time around, the Commodores and Illini took revenge, setting up a Vanderbilt-Illinois match play final for Wednesday.
Monday’s individual stroke play winner, Will Gordon, set the tone early for Vanderbilt in its matches with Oregon. Gordon built off the momentum from a solid first day and took down the Ducks’ Edwin Yi, opening up a four-stroke lead by the turn and finish 4 & 3 on the day.
Gordon’s teammates followed suit, as four of the Commodores’ five golfers won their respective matches Tuesday, with Oregon’s standout sophomore Norman Xiong (more on him tomorrow) landing the Ducks’ only win with a decisive 6 & 4 victory.
Illinois’ win over Oklahoma was by a bit tighter margin of victory. The Illini’s Dylan Meyer and Nick Hardy won their respective matches without too much difficulty, but Oklahoma’s Garett Reband took down Giovanni Tadiotto with a 3 & 2 win, while the Sooners’ Riley Casey eked out a one-point win vs. Brendan O’Reilly.
In the end, though, Casey’s win didn't matter as Illinois’ Justin Feagles pulled off a surprising win over Oklahoma standout Brad Dalke, who just didn’t have it Tuesday.
Feagles’ 2 & 1 win was enough to put Illinois in the final pairing with Vanderbilt, for what should be one of two great finals matches on Wednesday.
Adam Hermann has written for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia magazine, SB Nation, and NBC Sports Philadelphia.
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