The Sooners shot a 295 (+7), the second-best third-round score of the tournament's 24 teams, behind a 2-under-par 70 from Jao-Javanil. The Thailand native is tied for first place with a career-best-tying 54-hole score of 212 (-4) alongside Arizona State's Giulia Molinaro.
With 18 holes remaining, Jao-Javanil and Molinaro lead third-place Brooke Pancake of Alabama and Tessa Teachman of LSU by one stroke.
Oklahoma, which entered the day in a tie for 13th place and 22 strokes out of first, is now only nine shots behind leader Alabama and just five strokes out of the top three with its three-round 888 (+24). The Crimson Tide carded a 306 (+18) in the third round, lessening its lead over second-place USC to two strokes.
"We're really close to where we need to be," said OU head coach Veronique Drouin-Luttrell. "The last few holes have been tough for us to finish rounds, but we have tomorrow's 18 holes to move up on the board and see what happens. I'm especially proud of Ja and Taylor [Schmidt], who played really solid rounds today."
Jao-Javanil, ranked No. 59 in the Golfstat rankings, entered the round in a tie for sixth place with four golfers, four strokes behind then-leader Pancake. Jao-Javanil recorded four birdies Thursday, including three within a five-hole stretch, to move into first place in the field of 126 competitors and put herself in contention for a national title.
"I had a good round today," said Jao-Javanil, who already has two tournament wins to her credit this year. "I stuck to my game plan and kept calm. I hit a lot of good shots that set up some easy birdies and pars. I think I also paced myself well mentally throughout the round and didn't feel rushed."
If Jao-Javanil is able to pull out the victory, she will become the first women's golfer in OU history to win an NCAA title. Although a national championship is on her mind, the sophomore said she is happy just to be in contention.
"It's an honor to be in a run for this big of a title," said Jao-Javanil. "Winning the NCAA Championship is the greatest award in college golf. I'm glad I'm in a spot where I have an opportunity to pursue the title. I'm going to go out there tomorrow and play one shot at a time."
This is the second postseason tournament in a row that the Sooners have found new life in the third round. Less than two weeks ago, the Sooners began the third round of the NCAA West Regional in 14th place before fighting back on the final day to claim eighth place and qualify for their first national championships appearance since 2002.
OU's comeback round on Thursday was also fueled by a 1-over 73 from Schmidt. The junior from Ontario birdied three holes and posted her lowest score of the tournament, bouncing from 53rd place to a tie for 27th.
Sophomore Anne-Catherine Tanguay shot a 76 (+4) after a rough final six holes. Tanguay was 1 under par thru 12 holes before scoring 5-over the remainder of her round. The Quebec native is in a tie for 23rd place with a three-round total of 221 (+5).
Junior Jacki Marshall is in a tie for 111th place after shooting a third-round 76 (+4) and sophomore Emily Colins is tied for 107th after firing a 77 (+5). Marshall's and Collins' third-round performances marked their best of the event.
Oklahoma will tee off from the No. 1 tee in Friday's final round beginning at 11:53 a.m. CT. The Sooners will be paired with golfers from Duke and UCLA. Live scoring is available at NCAA.com.
/// Sooner Sports PR