ALBUQUERQUE, NM -- Texas A&M charged to a tie for sixth place on Friday at the NCAA Women's Golf Championship, the second-highest finish in school history.
Sophomore Ashley Freeman birdied three of the last five holes to tie for eighth individually, also the second best in A&M history behind Shirley Furlong. Furlong placed seventh at the inaugural NCAA Championship in 1982 in leading the Aggies to a record fifth-place finish. Freeman's 71-72-74-75=292 total broke the school mark for 72 holes by five strokes.
A&M's team score of 295-299-299-298=1,191 broke the school record by 20 strokes.
Denver's Stephanie Sherlock sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th to hand the Pioneers a one-shot lead over the Aggies for sixth place, but Freeman calmly dropped her 10-footer for birdie moments later to pull A&M even.
"People were counting us out but we fought literally to the very last putt," A&M Coach Trelle McCombs said. "The way we battled the whole tournament almost leaves me speechless. They decided that this was their time and they never let their lows bring them down. I can't even describe how proud I am of them."
Southern California (1,168) won the title by six shots over UCLA (1,174), while three-time defending champion Duke (1,180) finished third and Purdue (1,188) placed fourth. Arizona State (1,189) edged A&M and Denver (1,191) by just two shots for fifth place.
Arizona State's Azahara Munoz (69-72-73-73=287) defeated UCLA's Tiffany Joh (74-69-72-72=287) in a playoff to capture individua honors.
Other team scores were Arkansas (1,194), Florida (1,196), Wake Forest (1,197), Georgia (1,198), Auburn (1,215), Virginia (1,215), Alabama (1,215), LSU (1,222), UNLV (1,223), TCU (1,227), Texas (1,227), Oklahoma State (1,228), Tulsa (1,228), UC Davis (1,234), South Carolina (1,235), Arizona (1,240) and Furman (1,253).
A&M freshman Sarah Zwartynski and sophomore Danielle McVeigh also had strong finishes for A&M. Zwartynski played the last eight holes in one-under to close with a 74. McVeigh played the last six in one-under to finish with a 73.
"We knew we needed the play well but I really didn't feel any pressure," McVeigh said. "I knew my teammates would pull their weight and that allowed me to just go out and have fun."
Freeman was six-over through 13 holes, but rolled in her first birdie of the day from 30 feet on the par-4 14th. She added another birdie on the par-4 16th before clsoing with the birdie on 18.
"I hadn't made any putts all day before I dropped that bomb on 14," Freeman said. "That kind of got my adrenaline flowing. They (Denver) made their birdie on 18 so I really wanted to make mine. That one kind of capped it all off with my teammates going crazy. It was my first experience at nationals and it was a great one."
"Ashley is my little bulldog," McCombs said. "She's the shortest hitter on the team and with all the wind and rain we played in this week, it was really a challenge for her. But she is bound and determined to be a great player. She has a very bright future."
McVeigh (73-74-75-73=295) tied for 15th, also breaking the former school mark for 72 holes set by Christa Spedding in 2004. Zwartynski (72-78-73-74=297) tied for 23rd and tied Spedding's old record.
Junior Lauren Johnson (79-86-77-76=318) tied for 105th and senior Miranda Orr (85-75-83-81=324) tied for 118th.
The Aggies will return all but Orr next season.
"It's good to place in the top six but we won't be happy until we're No. 1," McVeigh said. "This was a great boost to our confidence and with most of this team back next year, we have a great chance to improve."