Girls golf: Nekola leads St. Charles North to DuKane crown
The notion of the defending Class 2A girls golf team state champion left barren by losing four Division I athletes to graduation was a foreign thought at Phillips Park on Wednesday afternoon.
St. Charles North top returnee Catie Nekola offered a simple formula in Aurora.
"You take four scores," the North Stars' sophomore said. "You just have to play your own game and shoot as low as you can."
Nekola certainly played her part for the first state champion in school history.
Nekola fired level-par rounds on each nine at Phillips Park in not only earning medalist honors at the DuKane Conference tournament but also leading St. Charles North to a 318-330 triumph over Geneva.
Counting its last four years in the Upstate Eight Conference, it was the sixth consecutive league championship for St. Charles North.
Wheaton Warrenville South, whose Grace Ellison had a career performance with a 74 to finish two shots behind Nekola for runner-up, edged St. Charles East for third, 349-354.
Batavia (363), Lake Park (375), Wheaton North (386) and Glenbard North (386) were fifth through eighth.
"I wanted to prove to the other teams we could still play," Nekola said of overcoming the North Stars' graduation losses.
"There are just so many good players on our team that I was just hoping I can be a part of it," said St. Charles North varsity newcomer Sophia Evers, who was Top 10 with an 83.
Brooke Bayless' 79 translated into solo third place and another anchor score for St. Charles North.
"I kept my focus," Bayless said. "I was able to come back with some pars in a row (to finish)."
Isabella Spinazze, the North Stars' second state returnee, finished in a ninth-place tie with Batavia senior Lauren Grychowski at 84 to complete the St. Charles North scoring.
Geneva had high hopes of dethroning the North Stars but had to reverse a 2-shot loss at home to St. Charles North on Monday in the process.
The Vikings monopolized the fourth through sixth positions behind Reese Clark (80), Kaylin Johnson (81) and Avery Frick (82).
But the Nekola medalist performance could not be circumvented.
"Having the race being so close, we knew it was going to be a hard day -- and it was," Clark said. "Coming into the season, I had higher expectations for the conference tournament. (My score) wasn't what I wanted."
Annie McQueeny had an 87 for the Vikings' final contribution.
The league did not break deadlocks as St. Charles East senior Paige Breslin tied Frick for sixth with her 82.
"My putting was not too great on the front nine," Breslin said. "It got a lot better on the back."
Grychowski has been the best player for Batavia all season.
"I didn't start super good today," Grychowski said. "I came back at the very end, so that was good."
Ellison truly had the breakthrough round to propel WW South to a satisfactory conclusion to the conference season.
"I had three holes left," Ellison said. "I thought, 'If I just make pars, I'll be in the 70s.'"
The Tigers' top player made a pair of birdies instead in shaving 9 shots off her previous low round.
Beginning her round with 8 pars against a lone bogey, Ellison tamed the two closing par 5s to complete her 2-over 74.
"I made some really long putts, and that's what really helped," Ellison said. "I think I have a pretty confident putting stroke."
"I knew (Ellison) had it in her," WW South coach Art Tang said. "She has been playing really well. The girls played exceptionally well all across the board. I believe a lot of them had personal bests."
Erica Meissner recorded a 90 for the Tigers' second-lowest score.
Vicky Hocuk was not terribly far from securing one of the 10 conference-best medals in her final appearance for Lake Park.
Playing No. 5 in the Lancers' lineup, Hocuk used ball-striking to tour Phillips' two distinctly different nine-hole layouts with an 86.
"I started hitting it farther and straighter (off the tee)," Hocuk said. "The (course) wetness never came into play. The back nine, I just kind of kept going. The finish kind of reflected how I played."
Wheaton North needed a tiebreaker to turn back Glenbard North for seventh as the latter did not have a fifth player.
The schools had almost identical top scorers as Grace Quinn led Wheaton North with a 90; the Panthers' Madison Gordon shot a 91.