AIKEN --- Looks like a third try at home might be the charm for USC Aiken.
After falling short in two prior attempts, the fifth-ranked Pacers are 18 holes away from winning the Peach Belt Conference Tournament in their own backyard with rounds of 292 and 289 at Houndslake Country Club on Monday.
USC Aiken enters today's final round at 5-over-par 581, three shots ahead of No. 20 Clayton State and 11 ahead of No. 10 Georgia College & State. The Pacers have won seven conference titles but never as the host team.
No. 12 Columbus State is in fourth place at 19-over 595, followed by No. 17 Armstong Atlantic State (35 over), No. 21 Lander (37 over) and unranked UNC Pembroke (47 over).
A strong showing from freshman Ashley Smith vaulted USC Aiken to the top of the leaderboard. Smith, who is from Leeds, England, shot rounds of 73 and 69 Monday and tied for second in the individual standings.
Smith trails Clayton State's Will Wilcox by four strokes. Wilcox shot followed up his first-round 70 with 68 to finish the day at 6 under.
USC Aiken's Roberto Diaz rebounded from his worst tournament of the season -- an 85th-place finish at the Augusta State Invitational -- with rounds of 70 and 73. The junior from Veracruz, Mexico, is tied with two others for third at 1 under.
Rounding out the Pacers' lineup Monday were Jeff Goff, who is in eighth place after a pair of 73s, freshman J.P. Solis (76--74, 14th) and sophomore Kevin Grady (77-74, tied for 15th).
A victory would be the first of the season for the Pacers, who went winless in 11 regular-season events.
Armstrong Atlantic State's Chris Wolfe, who entered the tournament as the top-ranked player in Division II had won four tournaments this season, is tied with Diaz for third. He shot 72-71.