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Spartan shocker! San Jose State women spoil Stanford’s shot at perfect season


San Jose State has a new name for the spring season: Speech season.

The Spartans entered their spring opener, the Lamkin San Diego Invitational, ranked No. 12 in Golfstat’s women’s team rankings, yet they were coming off a winless fall in which they finished second on three separate occasions. Despite San Jose State’s mid-major status, that didn’t sit well.

“We’ve been in a mode where we’re ready to go win,” Spartans head coach Dana Dormann said. “We knew that this team is the real deal, so instead of being happy to finish second in these really good tournaments, it’s like, OK, let’s actually finish it off, and that’s what happened today.”

Faced with an onerous task – the field at The Farms Golf Club featured eight other top-25 teams, including No. 1 Stanford, which was undefeated and already being talked about as one of the best teams ever – San Jose State pulled off the upset. The Spartans braced cold, wet and windy conditions and closed in 5 over, the round of the day by six shots, to edge the Cardinal by three strokes.

After trailing Stanford by five when Monday’s 36-hole day was halted for darkness with two holes to play, San Jose State quickly closed that gap. Still grouped with the Cardinal, Spartans chipped Stanford’s lead away to three after 36 holes and then overtook the Cardinal with a 4-under performance on the first nine holes of the final round (Stanford went 6 over during that stretch as both squads began the shotgun start on Nos. 10-13).

Though things remained tight down the stretch, a quintuple bogey by Stanford freshman Caroline Sturdza at her penultimate hole, the par-4 10th, all but sealed the deal.

San Jose State didn’t finish particularly stout, either, but it had four players shoot 3-over 75 or better, including junior Kajsa Arwefjall, who closed in 70 to tie for sixth. Senior Natasha Andrea Oon added a 74 for a solo third finish, her third top-5 of the season.

“We just kept telling our team to be in position and believe in themselves and you never know when things are going to go your way,” Dormann said. “The weather turned, our team hung tight, they were grinding away and made a few putts down the stretch that made the difference. … We are just so thrilled. The field was amazing; not only Stanford but a lot of teams that have had a lot of success (Arizona State placed third, followed by Oregon, Texas, UCLA, USC, Ole Miss and Arizona).

“So, we’re super excited to have San Jose State coming back and trying to return to what we used to have with our program.”

Dormann remembers those years well. She was a member of the Spartans’ 1987 NCAA Championship squad and a three-time All-American. San Jose State later won NCAA titles in 1989 and 1992, and starting with that 1989 win, the Spartans ran off nine straight finishes of fourth or better at nationals.

But the program has gotten through regionals just once since 2013 and only three times since 2001. Dormann, who has now coached the Spartans in some capacity for nearly two decades, was promoted to head coach prior to the 2018-19 season and led that squad to a 19th-place finish at the NCAA Championship at Blessings.

This year’s team has expectations to better that performance. Oon is a potential first-team All-American while Arwefjall and senior Antonia Malate will likely both be ranked inside the top 50 when the rankings update on Wednesday. If freshman Lucia Lopez Ortega, who last summer helped Spain with the European Team Championships, continues to near her potential, San Jose State has a legitimate shot of making match play at Grayhawk.

“The caliber of player that we’re getting continues to improve,” Dormann said. “People are seeing San Jose State as a school that they want to aspire to play for.”

And now, a school that can once again stack up with the best in the country.

As for Stanford, while sophomore Rachel Heck birdied four of her last seven holes to take the individual title and Rose Zhang tied for fourth (the first time in her college career she had not won), the back portion of the Cardinal lineup struggled mightily, with Sturdza tying for 44th after a closing 82 and Angelina Ye beating just six of the 75 players in the field. The result: Stanford, which won each of its four fall events, will not finish the season unbeaten.

The Cardinal were trying to equal the 1994-95 Arizona State squad as the only undefeated teams in women’s college golf history. That year, the Sun Devils won 10 times, including the NCAA Championship, did so by an average of 25 shots, and boasted nine individual winners and four first-team All-Americans.

However, that Arizona State team did share one of those tournament wins – a regional title with none other than... San Jose State.

On Tuesday, the Spartans again inserted themselves into the history books, this time denying Stanford the chance at a perfect season.

Not that the Cardinal, who defeated San Jose State twice in the fall, won’t soon have their shot at payback: The two teams play a dual match next week at CordeValle as speech season continues.

“I imagine they might want to get a little revenge on us,” Dormann said. “But we have a great relationship with them and a tremendous amount of respect for them. We feel fortunate to be able to play alongside them – and occasionally beat them.”