EAST MANATEE -- When the season began, Baylor's women started the year off about as bad as you could.
The Lady Bears took 21st out of 23 teams at the season-opening Cougar Classic in Charleston, S.C.
After the first national ranking came out, Baylor was No. 121 - but head coach Jay Goble wasn't bothered.
Instead, he gave his club a mission: "We're trying to get better for postseason."
Never miss a local story.
After Tuesday's action at the NCAA Division I Women's Golf National Championships, Goble's club put itself within one victory of winning the program's first national title.
Baylor edged defending national champion Duke, 3-2, in Tuesday's semifinal at The Concession Golf Club, setting up a final against Stanford, which upended top-seeded USC 3-2 in the other semifinal.
"They literally walk around believing they shouldn't lose," Goble said. " They walk around like, 'Ya'll got to come get us.' If you walk around like that, you believe it and they do believe it."
Goble's group has blasted through the postseason, collecting a 12-shot victory at the Big 12 Conference Championship and a 22-under par performance en route to winning the NCAA San Antonio Regional.
"It's just a big pie, we're not working on our golf swings here," Goble said. "All these girls are great golfers. They all know how to play golf. But if you can get better at putting, chipping, inside 100 yards, if you can walk around with confidence and actually come out and have a strong mental game and believe in yourself, you are going to play well."
On Tuesday, Baylor found itself in a dogfight with Duke, which has won six national titles since 1999.
The two teams were tied 2-2 when their No. 5 golfers headed to extra holes following an all-square match through regulation.
Baylor's Lauren Whyte matched up with Duke's Lisa Maguire. Both golfers had struggled all week on the demanding Concession layout, posting a combined 105-over par in 72-holes of stroke play prior to Tuesday's match play portion.
"The shots she hit at the end of the round were unbelievable," Goble said.
Maguire won the last two holes in regulation to extend the match to a sudden-death playoff, and had the first real chance to close out the match on the par-5 13th - the fourth extra hole.
Whyte bladed a bunker shot from the front of the green off the back of the green with her 58-degree wedge, while Maguire faced a birdie bid.
However, Maguire misfired and Whyte made a daunting pitch shot with hardly any green to work with look easy to salvage par.
"It's definitely the one place on that green that you don't want to be," Whyte said. " I made the hole way harder for myself than I needed to."
Then Maguire's heroics in front of television cameras took center stage when she got a bunker shot up-and-down from a short-sided angle on the par-3 14th.
"I didn't have much room to work with," Lisa Maguire said. "I landed it exactly where I wanted to."
Whyte ended things on the next hole, the par-4 15th, when Maguire found trouble near the water hazard guarding the right-side of the fairway with her tee shot.
A short approach led to a double-bogey and Whyte tapped in for bogey to clinch the semifinal victory for the Lady Bears.
Laura Lonardi (2-and-1) and Dylan Kim (1-up) also secured victories for Baylor.
Now they'll meet with Stanford, beginning at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday, for the national title.
Neither program has won the national championship.
The Cardinal edged the Trojans 3-2, with victories by Shannon Aubert (4-and-2), Lauren Kim (4-and-3) and Casey Danielson (2-and-1).
Kim joined Leona Maguire and Celine Boutier as first-team All-Americans from the players still in the tournament.
Based off the golf thus far, Stanford head coach Anne Walker isn't ready to predict the top pairing to watch Wednesday when the final takes place between the Cardinal and Lady Bears.
"I think if I was to predict that, I'd be crazy because what the last 36 holes have shown, the matches you think are going to be no-brainers are the ones that turn into the nail biters," Walker said. "So I'm not even going to try and predict. I think (Wednesday), they're all going to be very close matches that'll come down to the wire."