Girls golf sectionals take place Friday, Saturday
After a strong second-place finish at the Northern Lakes Conference Tournament over the weekend, the Plymouth girls golf team is surging going into the Warsaw Sectional Saturday.
The Lady Pilgrims should be in the hunt for one of the top three spots that guarantee team advancement to the regional round of the 39th Annual IHSAA tourney along with front-running host and NLC champion Warsaw as well as a strong Rochester squad that has also beaten Plymouth two times this season. Other teams in the field are Culver Girls Academy, Triton, Tippecanoe Valley, Wawasee and Whitko.
“It was a good springboard for our girls to take it to that next level to try to get out of sectional, and it may be a good message to kind of send to other schools that we’ll be playing against, that don’t take us lightly, we’re coming to sectional ready to play,” said Plymouth Head Girls Golf Coach Jack Kinney of Saturday’s second-place finish in the NLCs.
“Our sectional this year will not be easy,” he said. “What we’re looking at is Rochester, who is a very good team this year, they only have one loss. We’re looking at Warsaw, again undefeated in conference play, I don’t believe they have any dual meet losses either. Wawasee, they beat us in dual meet play but we returned the favor (at the Northern Lakes Conference Tournament), but they’re a very good team. You can’t overlook CGA, the girls academy, Fred (Haase) will have his girls ready to play. They’re going to be looking very good, too, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Even if Plymouth can’t grab one of the three team berths out to the East Noble Regional Sept. 24, two of the team’s top golfers also stand strong chances of earning a top-three spot as individuals from non-advancing teams in Mandy McPherron and Emily Berger, who finished the conference season as All-NLC and All-NLC Honorable Mention, respectively.
“I believe anything can happen on any given day when you’re out there, but Mandy McPherron and Emily Berger have played the course, they’re familiar with Stonehenge, it doesn’t intimidate them… and they definitely have a great chance of getting out,” said Kinney. “If you can go to Stonehenge in sectional from what I’ve seen the last few years and shoot a mid-80s score, you can get out of there. We’ve always got that in our hip pocket, but certainly our first goal and our primary goal is to get out as a team.”
Triton, which enters the Warsaw field after placing fourth at last weekend’s Northern State Conference meet, stands little chance of shaking up the top team standings at Stonehenge, but top-flighters Syndey Gochenour and Hannah Jennings both have an outside shot of advancing as individuals for the Trojans.
“Obviously we’re going to be at the bottom rung playing against (Tippecanoe) Valley,” said Triton coach Jack Carpenter. “Sydney and Hannah both have an outside chance at getting out if they can shoot around 100. The greens are usually so fast, much faster than the girls are used to, and that’s one of the toughest things for them, having the touch around the greens. If one of those two can somehow shoot around 100, 102 they probably have a chance of getting out.”
While Triton heads to Warsaw, several other NSC teams kick off the state series at the Penn Sectional as Bremen, John Glenn and LaVille head to Knollwood Friday.
No. 1-ranked Penn is the clear favorite to win a fourth straight sectional title at the meet.
“Obviously you’ve got the Penn girls, you’ve got five girls up there that will be shooting really strong,” said Bremen coach Don Harrison. “I haven’t been looking at St. Joe that much, but they’re usually pretty strong up there. Clay is strong. It just depends on what somebody shoots on any given day.”
The Lions may have an outside shot at a top-three team slot, but better still are the advancement prospects of individuals Laura Davis, who shot a 98 to finish second overall at the NSCs, and Bremen No. 2 Kailyn Weiss, who struggled with a 106 over the weekend but is capable of shooting in the 90s as well.
LaVille and Glenn will be among the last groups to tee off at the Penn tourney and have slim chances to make it out, although Glenn’s Anna Dunn has a chance to grab one of the top three places for individuals from non-advancing teams.
“Glenn and us are playing together. They would assume that we are the weakest two schools in the sectional, which I would agree, and we’re probably the weakest of them all. My goal is to at least beat one team,” said LaVille coach Steve Read.
“We have a chance just to nip one school, and I think that’d be a good goal. If we can shoot under 500, that’d be a realistic goal, I think — to be in the 490s, that area.”
Another area team tempering its expectations at sectionals is Knox, which is fielding its first full team in five years and will look on Saturday’s Valparaiso Sectional as an experience to grow on.
“With the Valparaiso Sectional we just want to go in there and have fun and just keep building on the experience and improving on our scores for next year,” said coach Mark Abel.
Also in the area, North Judson, Oregon-Davis and Winamac will travel to Sandy Pines for the Kankakee Valley Sectional Saturday.