The 18-year-old Pressel was tied with her 2002 Junior Solheim Cup captain, Sherri Steinhauer, and former teammate Paula Creamer at 7-under 137. Steinhauer and Creamer shot 70s.
Pressel, who tied for fifth last year, knows exactly what she needs to do to earn her first win in 32 starts.
"It's not like I'm protecting a big lead, so I've got to go out there and make some birdies," she said. "I can't do anything stupid."
It was mostly overcast and breezy at Turtle Bay Resort's oceanside Palmer Course, keeping players from being too aggressive and making them guess what clubs to hit. Conditions are expected to be even windier Saturday.
Pressel, the 2005 U.S. Women's Open runner-up, used a strong short game and made her move in the middle holes. She holed a 7-footer for birdie on No. 9, a 25-footer on 10 and tapped in on 12 to tie Steinhauer at 6 under.
Steinhauer, who qualified for the tour in 1985, three years before Pressel was born, birdied Nos. 13 and 14 with short putts to regain the outright lead. But she bogeyed the par-3 15th and Pressel birdied the next hole to get to 7 under.
The two shared stories, laughs and "girl stuff," as they walked the fairways.
"We had a great time out there. We kept it light and fun," Steinhauer said. "We definitely fed off each other."
During the round, Pressel told Steinhauer that her grandmother turns 71 on Saturday.
"I said, 'Do you realize my parents are older than your grandparents?'" the 44-year-old Steinhauer said. "Her eyes got this big. She couldn't even fathom that."
Pressel, who opened the tournament with a double bogey, said she almost slipped and called her playing partner, "Captain."
Steinhauer said she'll never forget driving the youngsters to the mall.
"I don't know if that was legal. They will never forget that. I think that was the highlight of the Solheim Cup," she said.
Steinhauer, who last year won her second career major and seventh LPGA title at the Women's British Open, had an up-and-down round with six birdies and four bogeys.
Creamer, who was shared the first-round lead with Steinhauer and Paige Mackenzie, is seeking her first win since 2005 when she won twice, finished second on the money list and earned rookie of the year honors. Last season, Creamer had 14 top-10 finishes, including a second-place tie.
"I think I've overcome that whole, 'Let's try and win and win and win.' I just need to let it happen," she said.
Dressed in black instead of her usual pink attire, Creamer slapped her putter after missing a par putt on No. 11 and bogeyed the next hole when 3-wood shot found the leftside lake. But she finished strong, birdieing the Nos. 14 and 18 holes to reach 7 under.
Hee-Won Han, who won two events last year and finished ninth on the money list, was a stroke back at 6 under after he second 69.
Julieta Granada (71), who won the season-ending ADT Championship and helped give Paraguay its first Women's World Cup title last month, was 5 under along with Pat Hurst (68) and Janice Moodie (70.
Karrie Webb shot her second 70 and was at 4-under 140 with LPGA player of the year Lorena Ochoa (69) and LPGA rookie of the year Seon Hwa Lee (70).
"I actually tried to be more aggressive but the course is playing tough. There's more wind. The greens are getting harder," said Ochoa, who won six events last year. "Hopefully tomorrow, I can put the ball a little closer."
Ochoa had 20 top-10 finishes last year and led the money list with $2,592,872.
Jimin Kang (70) was at 3 under along with a group that included NataliGulbis (73), who is seeking her first win in 136 starts.
Ai Miyazato was forced to take the weekend off, along with the entourage of Japanese media following her, after shooting a 76. She was at 7 over, along with 16-year-old amateur Taylore Karle (75) and 2005 SBS champion SBS Jennifer Rosales (75).
Big Island native Kimberly Kim, who last year became the youngest champion of the U.S. Women's Amateur at age 14, also missed the cut after three bogeys and a three double bogeys in her round of 79. Defending champion Joo Mi Kim (74) also failed to advance.
The winner Saturday will take home $165,000 from the $1.1 million purse. The tournament is ending Saturday to accommodate television audiences in South Korea, where it will be Sunday and aired live by sponsor Seoul Broadcasting System.