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Blue Devils prepare for NCAA championships

The women's golf team moved one step closer to avenging last year's final round defeat at the NCAA championships by capturing its third straight NCAA East Regional title this weekend.

Sophomore Leigh Anne Hardin led the charge for the Blue Devils, carding a six-under 210 en route to the tournament's individual title at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La.

After ending the first day in fourth place, the team stormed back in the final 36 holes, finishing with a three-day five-under total of 859--13 strokes ahead of second place Auburn. The Blue Devils have not lost a tournament this spring.

"We had a fantastic performance this weekend," said coach Dan Brooks. "Everyone had at least one under-par round throughout the tournament and for us to do this when we were actually in the middle of the range of teams that advance to the NCAA championships was fantastic."

Sophomore Virada Nirapathpongporn and junior Kristina Engstrom joined Hardin in the top 10. Defending national champion Candy Hannemann shot a disappointing 79 in the final round to finish tied for 27th, while freshman Niloufar Aazam-Zanganeh placed tied for 34th.

The win is Hardin's first of the season and she is the last of Duke's five starters to capture top individual medalist honors this spring. The victory, however, could not have come at a more opportune point.

"It has been a long time since I have won a tournament," Hardin said. "I hit the ball solid all three days and hit most of my greens. As a team we are coming along really well and are all fresh after finishing with exams this past week."

Duke will join 23 other top regional finishers at Washington's home course May 21 in the national championship. The 23 teams include the Georgia, who nabbed the championship last May after the heavily-favored Blue Devils collapsed in the final round, losing a four-stroke lead.