The College of the Canyons women’s golf team won its second consecutive CCCAA State Championships at Morro Bay Golf Course on Monday, but the season-long grind to win the title was particularly challenging for No. 5 golfer Fredeliza Lieberman.
Lieberman wanted to push herself at the state championships, but she knew there was a chance she wouldn’t make it through all 18 holes.
She drank as much water as she could, she ate nearly non-stop and took a nap before competition began because she wanted to have two reasons to celebrate at the end of the tournament.
After winning the title and taking the team photo, Lieberman had an important announcement: She was seven months pregnant.
“I trusted my team was strong and I wanted to be a double celebration once we reached the state,” 36-year-old Lieberman said. “I wanted it to be announced when everyone was also celebrating and winning the state championships. I wanted a gift to surprise them.”
The only other player who knew was Lieberman’s roommate, Shabana Poswal, who happens to be a Canyon High School alumna. The rest of the team was stunned, although some had their hunches.
“I was so surprised,” said Haruka Koda. “I kind of like, wanted to ask because I kind of saw, I could see her stomach is kind of getting bigger but I didn’t want to be rude.”
While Lieberman’s pregnancy was a surprise, Canyons’ championship win was not. The Cougars recorded a team score of 609, which is a new all-time low in community college women’s golf in California.
Reedley College was the runner-up with a 648 team score.
The group returned all players from last season’s title-winning lineup, including Koda and Jessie Lin, who tied for medalist at 144. Koda shot 2-under 70 on the first day and 2-over on the second day, while Lin was 1-under on the first day and 1-over on the second.
Both Koda and Lin are also on track to play Division 1 college golf. Coach Gary Peterson said that Koda has been looking at California State University, Fullerton and Lin is in talks with Washington State University.
The team as a whole was familiar with the Morro Bay course after playing a handful of rounds in invitationals and last season’s state championship in the same location. COC wanted to come out strong in the first round so that it could enter the second round relaxed and confident.
“I told myself just like, relax and play,” Lin said. “Just enjoy the beautiful view and don’t think about anything. Just look around. It makes you calm down.”
The state title is Canyons’ fourth, which ties the program with Santa Barbara City College and College of the Desert for the second-most titles in community college golf in California. Mt. SAC has the most with five.
It’s also the first COC team to go back-to-back in state championship wins and the first team in the state to do so in 15 years.
“We’ve come really close to going back-to-back but always had something go wrong that would prohibit us from going back-to-back and it’s very, very rewarding,” said coach Gary Peterson. “It’s very rewarding and very happy and the sadness is there because these girls are all moving on, but we met our goal and they’ve just been amazing to work with.”
Peterson will have to rebuild his entire roster for next season, and he’s taking a close look at the Foothill League schools for potential players. In addition to Poswal, Paige Heuer played in the Foothill League for Hart before coming to COC.
Heuer recommends that anyone with golf experience who comes to Canyons should consider joining the team.
“I was hesitant when I first started and I was just like, I’m going to try it out, see if I like it and I ended up loving it,” she said. “It’s such an amazing experience and if they have the opportunity and they love golf, definitely do it, hands down. Just join. It’s so much fun.”
There is a possibility of a future Lieberman playing for the Cougars, too, but COC might have to wait a few years for that.