As the prep golf season begins, Ryan Bais is certain of one thing.
“You always have a target on your back since everyone wants to beat the best,” said Bais, head coach at Ironwood Ridge.
Last season, the road to being the best in state 5A-II boys’ team competition led directly through the Nighthawks, as Ironwood Ridge took home the state championship, out-shooting Scottsdale Horizon 589-607.
This year might be a bit more difficult, according to Bais.
“It is a tough act to follow when you lose five of your eight players from last year,” said Bais.
But the coach is confident a combination of veterans and new players will keep the Nighthawks in contention.
“Ben Esparza (a senior and Ironwood Ridge’s top golfer during state last year) will be our leader this year along with (junior) Alex McMahon,” said Bais. “They are tremendous golfers, both made the Junior America Cup team for the state of Arizona”
“Austin Sverdrup is our only other returner and he has been working extremely hard and has improved a ton since last season,” Bais added.
Making up the rest of the boys’ team are senior Adam Ortiz, freshman Kevin Goldstein, juniors Tyler Eisenfeld and Austin Steussel and sophomore Caleb Oswald.
“I think we want to defend our state title to the best of our abilities,” said Bais. “We don’t want to be a program that just succeeds one year and then falls off the map the next — we want to build a program that will stand the test of time.”
The Nighthawks girls’ team also fared well in state competition last season.
Returning from last year’s sixth-ranked squad are Lauren Laszczak, Sue Lee and Ellen Springs, all of whom finished in the top 100.
In their first match of the regular season last Wednesday, the Ironwood Ridge boys lost to Salpointe Catholic 148-162, and the girls shot a 199 Thursday on the way to a victory over CDO and Amphi.
While Ironwood Ridge’s boys were dominant last year, the Mountain Lion girls were also making some noise during the 5A-II tournament, coming in second to Tempe Marcos De Niza by six strokes.
Although the Mountain View girls graduated standout Jennifer Candanoza, junior and eighth-place state finisher Kayleigh Kresse, 12th-place Melissa Olson, Chloe Bledsoe, Shelby Empens and Stephania Ochs all return.
The Mountain Lion boys’ team, which came in second out of three in the season opener with CDO and Rincon, didn’t place at state last year, but coach David Romero thinks his team will be ready to compete at a higher level.
“The boys have much higher expectations about consistent and better overall team play compared to last year,” said Romero. “We want to qualify for state as a team.”
“Twenty-five boys came out and endured conditioning and core workouts,” he added. “Twenty remain, and 12 have a legitimate chance to become one of the top five golfers ready for post-season play.”
Romero pointed to veterans Brian Cantrell , Dillon Molinar, and Vince Gerhard, as well as newcomers Kyle Gamez, Phillip Douglas, Daniel Vanroosenbeek and Dominick Chicago, as possible contributors.
Canyon Del Oro
Canyon Del Oro boys’ coach John Farbarik is direct about his expectations for the Dorados this season.
“CDO expects to have one of the strongest teams in Southern Arizona this year,” he said. “We have two of the top returning players in the state, (senior) David Metz and (junior) Gentry Hicks.”
While the Dorados, who finished fourth overall last season, can count on top-20 finishers Metz and Hicks, others figure into Farbarik’s game plan for 2009.
“(There is) a solid foundation of returning players who are looking to contribute more this year,” said Farbarik. Among them are juniors Brendan Gibbons and Tom Olla, and sophomores DJ Niichel, Logan France, Derek Metz, and Jack Otis.
Freshmen Jaime Waltmire, Jake Pena and Nick Whalen are “challenging to get early playing time.”
The Dorados may have high standards, but Farbarik said the team’s goals enable them to reach the bar they set for themselves.
“We want to win our region, win our state tournament and have each player compete with all he has in every event we play,” said Farbarik. “We can’t control the first two things, but we have total control over the third – if we do that one, the other two become possible.”
CDO started fast, bringing home the inaugural Southern Arizona High School Invitational title, and won their regular season opener against Rincon and Mountain View last Wednesday.
The Dorados’ girls’ team did not place in the top 15 at state last season, but returns Libby Morcum, a top 50-finisher. Also looking to make an impact are Lora Batterton, Madeline Skitzke and Lauren Walters.
After finishing fifth in the girls’ portion of the Southern Arizona High School Invitational last week, the Dorados came in second to Ironwood Ridge while defeating Amphi in the first match of their regular season last Thursday.
The Marana girls’ team finished eighth at state last year, and returns Bre Jungbluth (#35 in the tournament), Candace Graves (51) and Adrianna Vera (52).
The Tiger girls dropped their regular season opener at home against Desert View on Thursday, 226-241.
The Marana boys’ team did not place at state, but returns state competitor Colby Robins, and will also look to fellow veteran Corey Coles-Perez for leadership on a young team. The 2009 Tigers took second in their first match of the season last Wednesday as Cienega edged Marana by seven strokes with 161 to the Tigers’ 168. Marana’s score was good enough to beat Sunnyside High School’s 203.