Two weeks after a disappointing 12th-place finish at the Windy City Classic, No. 28 Virginia returned to the course, looking to bounce back in its final tournament of the season. The team delivered, finishing tied for 5th in a talented 19-team field.
The Cavaliers opened the tournament Friday with a fourth-place score of 1-under 283. Freshman Jaclyn LaHa, who has had a successful first season so far with the Cavaliers, led the team at 3-under 68 on the par-71 course. Posting four birdies on her first six holes, LaHa’s strong performance had her in third place after the first round.
Junior Megan Propeck also finished under par, shooting 1-under 70 to finish the first round in 10th place, while junior Amanda Sambach finished in 32nd at 1-over 72. Senior Rebecca Skoler shot 2-over 73 to sit in 42nd, while freshman Kiera Bartholomew struggled, finishing the first round at 10-over 81.
Whenplay resumed Saturday, Virginia was sitting nine shots behind No. 7 UCLA, who led the field at 10-under 284. However, a strong second-round performance saw them charge forward, finishing the round tied for first with No. 11 University of Southern California with a total two-round score of 5-under 563.
Sambach led the Cavaliers in their second-round surge, shooting 4-under 67 and entering the final round in sixth place. LaHa also put on a great performance, finishing the round as Virginia’s top overall competitor with a score of 2-under 69, one shot behind the tournament’s leader.
Propeck finished the round in 14th place, shooting par 71, while Skoler and Bartholemew finished in 68th and 86th, respectively.
The third and final day of competition saw Virginia shoot 11-over 295, dropping back to 5th place in the 19-team field and ending the tournament tied with UCLA. USC finished in first place with a final score of 9-under 843.
Despite this disappointing final day, the Cavaliers’ final round still had plenty of bright spots. Sambach capped a strong fall season with a runner-up finish, a final round score of 3-under 68 securing her the position. This was her third top-10 finish in four fall tournaments and the 14th of her collegiate career.
In addition, Propeck was Virginia’s second-best finisher, shooting 1-under 70 in the final round for a 54-hole total of 2-under 211. She finished in ninth place for the second time in three events.
Despite a strong first two rounds, LaHa struggled in the final round, closing the tournament with a disappointing 8-over 79 final round, dropping back to 29th. Although she has had many strong performances this season, LaHa will undoubtedly work hard to improve her consistency leading up to the spring season.
Shooting 7-over 78 Sunday, Skoler finished in 75th place, while Bartholemew finished in 96th with a total score of 238.
Despite the lackluster Sunday session, Virginia’s performance in the tournament gave plenty of hope for a successful spring season, especially given how the Cavaliers performed in the previous tournament. For the first time all year, LaHa, Sambach and Propeck all had strong overall performances, although the consistency in the third round is something that can be improved.
In addition, Virginia was able to prove its worth against strong competition. The Cavaliers finished ahead of seven teams ranked above them in the most recent Golfweek standings, including No. 4 Oregon and No. 5 Texas, which should give the team confidence as it heads to the winter hiatus.
Virginia will be looking to improve on its 24th-place finish at the 2023 NCAA tournament this spring. The Cavaliers will open their season on Feb. 2 when they host the Collegiate Invitational at Guadalajara Country Club in Guadalajara, Mexico. A strong performance there would help set the tone for a successful spring season.