FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Standing on the tee box at 15 on Wednesday, Auburn sophomore Julie McCarthy received word that the Tigers had lost to Wake Forest in the semifinals of the NCAA Women's Golf Championship. Her first thought? "We'll be back."
"I think we all just got a taste of it this week," McCarthy said. "We knew that we did have the potential, but if you've never done it or put yourself in position, it's hard for us to believe that we actually can. This week, we qualified in eighth place and beat the No. 1 seed. It just shows that once you qualify, we can do it."
McCarthy was all square with her opponent when Wake Forest won its third match to clinch the 4-0-1 victory. She and fellow sophomore Mychael O'Berry were both working to flip their matches in Auburn's favor just like they did the night before, but it was too little too late.
"We've come a long way," Auburn head coach Melissa Luellen said. "We keep talking about how the goal is to just keep getting better - I think we proved we're getting better. The girls are bitterly disappointed. They have a lot of fight in them. We were starting to flip those last two matches, and unfortunately Elena (Hualde Zuniga) wasn't able to finish it off."
Hualde Zuniga went back-and-forth in her match before losing on the final hole. Kaleigh Telfer (6&4) and Brooke Sansom (7&5) also dropped their matches to the Demon Deacons.
The loss, however, didn't take away from the week and what this Auburn team was able to accomplish. The Tigers fought their way into eighth place after stroke play and then took down top-seeded Texas in dramatic fashion Tuesday night to earn a spot in the semifinals.
"This validates what we're doing and how committed we are and how committed Auburn University is to golf," Luellen said. "We want to win championships, and that's what we're about."
"I think we all feel like we've accomplished a lot this week, and it's just something to build on," added McCarthy. "We're all excited to keep going and see what happens."
Duke beat Arizona in the other semifinal match Tuesday morning, and it will be an all-ACC showdown in the finals with Duke and Wake Forest.
Match Play Results - Semifinals
Wake Forest def. Auburn, 4-0-1
Jennifer Kupcho (WF) def. Kaleigh Telfer (AU), 6&4
Letizia Bagnoli (WF) def. Elena Hualde Zúñiga (AU), 1-UP
Emilia Migliaccio (WF) def. Brooke Sansom (AU), 7&5
Julie McCarthy (AU) and Siyun Liu (WF), A/S
Vanessa Knecht (WF) def. Mychael O'Berry (AU), 3&2