Girls golf: Stevenson, Barrington's Smith master Prospect sectional field
Stevenson's girls golfers let their clubs do the talking at Monday's Class 2A Prospect sectional at the Mount Prospect Golf Club.
The Patriots shot their best score in school history (298) to take first place ahead of Barrington (306), which featured medalist Caroline Smith's impressive 3-under par 67 on a crisp afternoon in the Northwest suburbs.
Geneva (327) narrowly earned the third berth in Friday's state finals in Decatur over host Prospect (328).
"There were a lot of expectations on us," said Patriots coach Emma Degen, whose team placed fifth in Decatur last year. "I told the girls at the start of the season those expectations don't matter. I told those people talk all you want to me about them but don't talk to my girls about them."
Now, the Patriots hope to be the talk of Decatur.
Stevenson sophomore Emily Duan missed medalist honors by 1 stroke, shooting a 68, the lowest sectional score in program history, She birdied holes 14 through 16.
Patriots freshman Allie Santos contributed a 74, followed by junior Sophia Zhuang (78) and senior Joyce Bai (78).
"Last year I started the sectional round with a double-bogey on my first hole," said Duan, whose 68 was her first high school under-par effort and first score in the 60s. "So this year, when I parred my first hole, it was already an improvement.
"Our whole team has more confidence going to state this year. Last year, our fifth place was the best in school history. Now we're looking to top that."
And with a team featuring five underclassmen.
"We have lot of young girls," Degen said. "Emily has always been our top kid and has the potential to go low. To see her score today was really needed. Hats off to Caroline Smith with her 67. Emily kept us on pace there. Then we have a freshman shoot a 74. You can't really beat that either. The girls did exactly what we needed them to do. We're kind of just riding it out now."
Barrington, which fired a 298 on the same course two weeks ago while winning the Mid-Suburban League meet, was led by Smith, Mara Janess (76), Sophia Sulkar (80), and Sophia Dennison (83).
"You've got to give Stevenson a lot of credit," said Fillies first-year coach Tim Martin. "They've been the favorite to win state all season and you saw why today. They were so fantastic. But I'm really proud of my team.
"Our one big goal was to make it to state. We have played a ton of golf there and we're thrilled to be going back. All the credit to the girls. They're such great golfers who have worked so hard."
Smith's three-birdie round, in which she hit 15 greens in regulation, was her best round since a 66 when she won the MSL meet as a freshman.
"What can you say? -- a spectacular round of golf," Martin said of the Wake Forest recruit. "Just a clean round, She is so good at every facet of the game and you saw that today. She has no weakness. It's a special memory for a senior to go out and win the sectional her last year."
Smith is headed to her fourth-straight state final appearance.
"It's exciting," she said. "The camaraderie on our team's special and something you don't see very often. It's going to be sad when it ends but we'll all move on to bigger and better things."
Martin loved the Fillies' team effort.
"Everyone played well," he said. " "Sophia Sulkar birdied 18 to really give us chance. She fought through her round. She was fantastic. Mara had another great round. Samantha Saile is always so go good out here. And Sophia Dennison was our fourth score and she has ben really coming on. And don't be surprised to see some great golf from Phebe Chen this weekend. She is right there."
Geneva and Prospect 's top four golfers were right there at the end, separated by only 1 stroke.
The Vikings' top two scores were by sophomore Kaylin Johnson (75) and senior Avery Frick (81).
Geneva's next scores were all 86s from sophomore Reese Clark, junior Colleen Rutledge and senior Annie McQuenny.
It is Geneva's first trip to state as a team.
"It's incredible," said Vikings coach Doug Ross. "The way these girls approached these last few rounds of the season has been great. They never gave up on a shot, never gave up on a hole. They just went hole-by hole, taking baby steps around the whole course and I really believe that's what got them through."
"We're all very excited," said Johnson, whose 75 (including three birdies) was her best high school round. "I was making a lot of putts today which I don't usually do. I think putting it close or making the putt was the difference for me."
Senior Kelly Kavanagh's 73 led Prospect.
"I made a lot of greens in regulation," said Kavanagh, a Drake recruit who will make her first appearance in Decatur since her freshman year "I made a lot of pars but couldn't sink any birdie putts."
Kavanagh was followed by junior Emma Preissing (81), senior Olivia Accardi (86) and junior Bri Arzbaecher (88).
"This is different from other sports because it comes down to this razor-thin margin," said Prospect first-year coach Brad Rathe, also a tennis and basketball coach. "But we played great. I thought coming in maybe on our best day we go 320 here and we go 328 so I'm really proud of what they did. At the same time, it's very difficult. Kelly gets to play next weekend so I'm super excited for her."
Vernon Hills freshman Lexi Schulman led the individual state qualifiers. Her score of 72 was third overall and included a 1-under 34 on the front nine. Schulman had 3 birdies.
Other individual qualifiers included Lake Zurich junior Bryana Hogan (77), St. Charles North senior Brooke Bayless (78), Huntley senior Katie Matustik (78) and Jacobs senior Roslyn Leitner (79), who will be making her first state finals performance.