Ridge swings into a state title - The Explorer: Sports

Ridge swings into a state title

Nighthawk golfers give third-year coach a championship

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Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 12:00 am | Updated: 8:03 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

When the Ironwood Ridge boys’ golf team won the 5A-II state title Nov. 5-6, it was the culmination of a long and taxing but ultimately rewarding season for the golfers and head coach Ryan Bais.

“We have had different issues we have had to deal with, but in the end it made us all better and closer as a team,” said Bais. “We did things the ‘right’ way this season.”

According to Bais, just how “right” 2008 was can be seen in the number of school records the team shattered this season.

Ben Esparza had a banner year, breaking the nine-hole record by shooting 3-under-par 33 two times. He stepped up in the state finals, also breaking the 18-hole record with a 66.

Team records weren’t safe, either, as the Nighthawks broke the 9- and 18-hole team records by shooting 143(-1) on nine holes and 287(-1) on 18 holes. 

“We didn’t take any days off and worked extremely hard to get to the top,” said Bais. “The team was more focused and dedicated than any group we have ever had before.”

That dedication also led to success on a state level.

Ironwood Ridge won its first super regional in school history, led by Esparza, Alex McMahon, Anthony Grijalva, James Demorest and Steven Ortiz, and took home a second consecutive 5A-II Southern region championship.

“We broke the school records for regional and state scores with a 583 (+7) at regionals and a 589 (+13) at state,” said Bais.

The Nighthawks also won the Santa Rita Invitational and placed second at the Rio Rico Invitational.

Racking up gaudy statistics and smashing records was important, according to Bais, but equally important was the growth the third-year coach saw in his athletes.

“This is the first senior class since I have been coach that I have watched develop and grow,” said Bais. “They started as young boys and developed into hard-working, focused and driven young men.”

The drive and success achieved by the Nighthawks in 2008 is even more impressive considering where they came from.

“When I took over three years ago they were coming off an 8-7 record and did not qualify for state,” said Bais. Over the next few seasons, the athletes worked hard to change the work ethic of the program, and 2008 was simply another step in the process, the coach said.

“Everyone improved a ton, from top to bottom,” said Bais. “Our top three played steady all year and then stepped up big at state, James Demorest improved from last year and Steven Ortiz stepped up big this year and made our team unbeatable.”

Unbeatable as the Nighthawks were, it would seem that, for a coach, on-course victories would stand out the most. Not so for Bais.

“I think the most memorable moments are the ones off of the course,” said Bais. “Riding in the van, hanging out at the hotel, going to dinner together. Those are when you get to know the kids away from the course and away from their parents.”

As special as 2008 was for Bais, 2009 looks like it might be just as memorable.

“The future looks good. Whenever you return two players like Ben and Alex, they will always give you a shot to win,” said Bais. “We also return (freshman) Austin Sverdrup, and I know there is a good group of eighth graders coming in that are very serious about the game of golf.”

Bais, too, is serious — about a Nighthawks’ dynasty.

“I feel we do not have to rebuild,” said Bais. “Simply reload.”

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HS Schedule

Tuesday, September 16

Boys Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Buena, Cienega at Marana

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, Catalina at Amphi (Silverbell GC)

Catalina Foothills, Pueblo, Sahuarita at Sahuaro

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Mountain View at Rio Rico

Ironwood Ridge at Glendale Ironwood

Swimming (@4 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge, Sahuarita at Desert Christian

Wednesday, September 17

Girls Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Rincon at CDO

Ironwood Ridge, Desert View at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Cross Country (@4:30)

Salpointe at Catalina Foothills

Palo Verde, Nogales at Marana

Rincon, St. Gregory at CDO

Sahuarita, Pueblo, Pusch Ridge at Desert View

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Empire at Marana (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

CDO at Queen Creek

Cienega at Mountain View

Sahuaro at Catalina Foothills

Walden Grove at Pusch Ridge

Thursday, September 18

Girls Golf

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Boys Golf

Sahuaro and Salpointe at Ironwood Ridge

CDO, Rincon, Sunnyside at Tucson High

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Marana at Sahuarita

Ironwood Ridge at Sahuaro (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

Catalina Foothills at Rincon

Pusch Ridge at San Manuel

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Marana vs. Tucson at Quincy Douglas Pool

Cienega at Marana

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Amphi

Catalina Foothills at Sahuaro

Freshman Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Flowing Wells at Marana (4 p.m.)

Desert View at Mountain View

Cienega at CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

JV Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Amphi at Marana

Santa Cruz Valley at Pusch Ridge

Mountain View at Desert View

CDO at Cienega

Buena at Ironwood Ridge

Sahuarita at Catalina Foothills

Friday, September 19

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge at Mt. Carmel Invitational (San Diego, CA)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

Football (@7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Santa Cruz Valley

Catalina at Marana

Desert Vista at Mountain View

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Cienega at CDO

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

Saturday, September 20

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Marana at Old Pueblo Invite(Lincoln Park)

Mountain View at San Diego

Catalina Foothills, CDO at Ojo Rojo (Chandler, AZ)


Marana at Wolves Classic (Chandler High)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions


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