After shaky regional, Duke eyes repeat title

Though Duke entered the final day tied for first, it could not hold the top spot at the NCAA Central Regional at The Traditions in College Station, Texas.

The No.1 Blue Devils had their best day of the tournament Saturday, but they still ended up two strokes behind winner Southern California and in second place. By finishing in the top eight, Duke advances to play in the NCAA Championships May 23-26 in Columbus, Ohio, where it will defend last year's national title.

"It's disappointing," head coach Dan Brooks said of the qualifying result. "We go into regionals trying to win it-we don't play as if we are going for the top eight."

Similar to her team, freshman Amanda Blumenherst teed off on the last day atop the leader board but eventually fell to second place, four strokes behind USC's Irene Cho.

The Blue Devils, the tournament's top seed, placed three players in the top 5-Blumenherst in second, Liz Janangelo in third and Jennifer Pandolfi tied for fourth-but did not fare well elsewhere as defending national champion Anna Grzebien struggled to a tie for 19th and freshman Jennie Lee finished tied for 35th.

"If we do play our game we have a chance to win, but we didn't," Brooks said. "Obviously when you've got numbers that are higher, like some of these rounds in the high 70s-we have to get those numbers down. If we are going to win nationals we are going to have to get those numbers down."

Top-ranked Blumenherst was hot from the beginning. After double-bogeying her first hole of the tournament, she recovered to finish her first round with a tournament-best seven birdies and a tie for the lead. On day two she struggled coming into the clubhouse, posting three bogeys in her final four holes, but she remained tied for first.

Her final-round score of 1-over-par 73, however, was not enough to keep pace with Cho, who finished the day at 3-under par.

"So much of her golf was great," Brooks said. "Our expectations are so high for her. To have some streaks that cause you to finish second instead of first individually-you know, things happen. Nothing stuck out in her game as a problem."

Janangelo, the nation's No. 8 golfer, joined Blumenherst in the top three behind a 3-under-par 69 in Friday's second round. Her other rounds of 77 and 75 kept her out of the red, though, as she finished 5-over par for the tournament.

Pandolfi continued her streak of five straight top-10 finishes this spring by carding a three-day total of six-over-par 222. She finished tied for fourth in the tournament.

A stellar 3-under-par 69 in the final round resurrected Grzebien's tournament after she carded two 79s in the first two rounds and sat in 53rd place heading into the final day. Brooks said a sore back and some swing adjustments led to the 12th- ranked golfer's early struggles.

"I can't say enough about Anna right now," Brooks said. "To see that 69 on the last day shows what kind of competitor she is. Another week and she'll be fine."

The second-place finish comes less than two weeks after all five Blue Devils were named to the All-ACC squad. Blumenherst earned both Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year awards while Brooks took home the Coach of the Year title for the 10th time in his career.

"That's something to be really proud of," Brooks said. "That we got all five in there is what's really exciting to me. We're very proud of the whole team."


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