Prospect returns to golf's pinnacle
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Since Prospect High School opened its doors in 1957, there had been only one girls sports team to win a state title.
That was coach Jim Hamann's girls golf team in 2011.
Hamann's girls proved Saturday they are still hitting the best shots in the state.
The Knights brought home the school's second girls state title on Saturday night after winning the Class AA crown at the Hickory Point Golf Club in Decatur.
Led by seniors Kiley Walsh (tie for fifth with a 150), Ally Scaccia (seventh with a 151) and Noreen Caporusso (tie for eighth with a 152), Prospect outdueled Loyola 612-621 to win the top prize.
Junior Kacie O'Donnell posted the Knights' fourth score (161) while senior Emma Menich finished with a 165 and junior Isabella Flack 169.
The state champs will be honored at 2:20 p.m. Monday with a pep assembly at Prospect's Jean Walker Field House.
"Absolutely unbelievable," said Caporusso, who some couldn't even believe was playing after undergoing ACL surgery following a badminton injury suffered in May. "It's an unreal dream. I'm so thrilled to play with such an amazing team and people I love so much."
A tap-in putt by Caporusso was the final stroke for Prospect, whose score of 612 was only 5 shy of the state record 607 set by Normal in 2007.
"Noreen is a story in itself," Hamann said. "We didn't even know if she'd be playing back in May. For her to finish all-state again, what an ending to her high school career."
Caporusso and Walsh, who shot 4-over-par 76s on Saturday, were key members of the 2011 championship team.
"This is seriously unbelievable," said Kiley, whose sister Allison was the 2011 individual state champ. "Both (titles) are so different. The first one, I was always in the No. 3 and 4 spot. It was my sister and Christine (Garmoe) who we really depended on.
"When they graduated, it was hard to think how we would stay competitive. To say we worked hard is an understatement. We just practice all the time. This year's win is truly special because this is a special group of girls.
"I don't think I'll ever find a group of girls like this again. To be able to succeed with them is unreal."
Scaccia, who was shooting in the 100s when Prospect placed fourth in 2010 state finals, had an unreal season, too.
"Oh my god, it's seriously the best feeling in the world," said the Bradley-bound Scaccia, who holds Prospect's school record for 18 holes (69). I can't even put it into words."
The Knights put up their best fight on Saturday, recovering from a 4-point deficit to Loyola after Friday's first round.
Scaccia's front nine of 36 and 37s by the Illinois State Walsh and Caporusso helped the Knights claim the lead by the turn.
"It was very tough conditions again with the wind," Hamann said.
"There were many times I taking two clubs up, even three clubs up from 125 yards," Walsh said.
Except for a few "hiccups" on the back nine, Hamann felt his team played the 18 holes really well.
"When we regained the lead (about the sixth hole), I knew it would be tough to take us down because I have so much confidence in these girls," he said.
Scaccia said the Knights were concentrating on their games rather the scoreboard.
"Whenever we'd talk to coach Hamann on the par 3s, he just kept saying we're good," she said. "He was reassuring us that everyone was playing well.
"It's crazy how hard we've all worked and how far we've come. Coach Hamann has done an amazing job with every who girl who comes through the program and he is the reason we can do this."
When Hamann took over in 2005, he wasn't exactly planning on state titles.
"I never thought we could do this," he said. "I knew that we had a great golf course (Mt. Prospect Golf Club) and great people to work with there. I thought we might have a chance to qualify for state, but it's just so hard in our area.
"I honestly didn't even know when we'd ever get downstate. These girls are just so resilient. They started as freshmen, never having played the game. They came in as beginners and finished as champions.
"The time and amount of dedication that went into this is immeasurable."
Prospect defeated runner-up Loyola 291-310 in a dual during the first week of the season.
"Loyola played extremely well all weekend," Hamann said. "They put up a great fight and should be really proud of how they played."
Of course, Hamann couldn't not be prouder of his team, which also included seniors Bridget Brasil and Frankie Corrado.
"Oh man, I don't know, it's just incredible," he said. "I'm very proud to bring back the championship to Prospect and very proud to be a Knight."
The Mid-Suburban League champs did not lose a meet or tournament all season with their starting lineup. They set virtually every school record in the sport.
"To bring a second state title for girls to Prospect is a real honor and it couldn't happen to a better group of young ladies," Hamann said. "These kids are seriously the closest, coolest, most enjoyable young ladies you'd want to be around."
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