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Aggies' Run At NCAA Finals Comes To An End

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#BigWest Player of the Year Paige Lee and the Aggies finished their season at the NCAA Championships.

Courtesy of UC Davis Department of Athletics (Photo by Tim Cowie)

UC Davis battled deep into the fourth round of the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championships on Monday but finished just shy of advancing to the match play quarterfinals at The Concession Golf Club.

The 22nd-ranked Aggies, who were in their fourth NCAA Finals in the past eight seasons, finished in 11th place at 68 over and just six shots out of a top-eight finish which would've advanced them into Tuesday's match play. It was the program's best-ever finish at the national championship.

Monday's play was televised nationally by the Golf Channel. The tournament, which endured weather delays in each round, started with 24 teams on Friday before cutting down to 15 after Sunday's third day.

UC Davis entered the final round in ninth place and was among the top eight for much of the round before being overtaken. USC (+40), Duke (+45), Baylor (+46), Stanford (+47), Arizona (+53), Tennessee (+60), Texas Tech (+60) and Washington (+62) secured berths to match play.

Sophomore Paige Lee led UC Davis by tying for 34th place at 16 over. Senior Beverly Vatananugulkit, in her final round as an Aggie, led the team with a par-72 to tie for 43rd at 18 over. She was the fourth different player to lead UC Davis in scoring in as many days.

Junior Betty Chen placed 47th at 20 over after carding a 75, junior Andrea Wong tied for 60th at 26 over, and senior Blair Lewis tied for 62nd at 27 over.

"Today was a great day for our program," said head coach Anna Temple. "An 11th-place finish in the national championship is a really good accomplishment after a year of really hard work. We were so close to advancing to match play so we know it is out there for us. It will leave us hungry to work that much better next season. I know our returners would like to have another opportunity. All in all, competing in the final tournament of the year in the final stroke play round if the year is a pretty great thing."

Emma Talley of Alabama claimed the individual national championship at 3 under after coming with a 3-under 69 on Monday. Only three players completed the 72 holes under par.

Vatananugulkit posted a solid round on Monday after opening with a bogey on the par-4 10th. She countered that with consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes and then had an eagle on the par-5 17th to help her make her turn 2 under. She was 2 over on the front to tie Chen's second-round 72 as the Aggies' best of the tournament.

Chen had three birdies over her first nine holes and posted another one late in her round of 75. Lee birdied three of her first eight holes and was 2 under at her turn before coming in with a 77, Wong shot 81 after posting a 3-over score on the front nine, and Lewis was 5 over on each side, finishing with an 82.

The Aggies were 16th at Texas A&M in 2013 for their previous-best finish at the NCAA Finals. The outstanding postseason run capped a season in which UC Davis won its sixth straight Big West Championship, earned a regional bid for the sixth straight year, and won two tournaments including the Anuenue Spring Break Classic and the conference championship. In all, they finished in the top three in nine events.

The national championships also closes the careers on two great Aggie seniors. Lewis, who led UC Davis at the NCAA South Bend Regional by tying for fifth, was a three-time All-Big West selection which included two honorable mention awards and this year's second-team honor.

Vatananugulkit was named to the All-Big West team three times, was a second-team pick this season and was the 2012 Freshman of the Year after winning the Big West title. Both Aggie seniors were mainstays in the Aggie lineup throughout their careers.

Lee, Wong and Chen -- all of them All-Big West first-team honorees this year -- return to the UC Davis lineup next year. Lee was the conference's golfer of the year while Wong was dominant while claiming medalist honors at the Big West Championship at El Macero Country Club.

Bradenton, Fla. (hosted by South Florida)
The Concession Golf Course
Par 72; 6,468 yards
72 of 72 holes
Scores relative to par when play halted noted in parentheses

1. USC, 297-303298-294-1192
2. Duke, 293-309-292-303-1197
3. Baylor, 297-307-306-288-1198
4. Stanford,293-323-296- 287-1199
5. Arizona, 300-311-294-300-1205
6. Tennessee, 301-309-300-302-1212
7. Texas Tech, 319-294-307-292-1212
8. Washington, 301-316-297-300-1214

Did not qualify for match play
9. Arkansas, 310-306-298-1217
10. Northwestern, 310-301-305- 302-1218
11. UC DAVIS, 305-304-306- 305-1220
12. Purdue,307-302-302- 311-1222
13. Wake Forest, 310-320-297-297-1224
14. Alabama, 310-307-310-299-1226
15. UCLA, 319-318 293-303-1233