By Ryan Menzie
Signal Sports Writer
The West Ranch Wildcats are coming off another Foothill League title and look to continue adding to their already impressive history. Despite the shortened season, the Wildcats remained poised last season and now look to the 2021 season to repeat as champions.
The girls golf Foothill League season us under way with teams trying to take the Foothill League crown from the Wildcats, or still building up their programs. Here are the teams and their season outlooks:
West Ranch High School
Wildcats head coach Jeff Holen has been coaching the team since 2004, and each year the goal remains the same: Win the league championship. The Wildcats finished at the top of the match in the first league matchup on Sept. 14.
“I don’t think that’s a far-fetched thing to strive for,” said Holen. “We would like to get four to five players to qualify for CIF individually. We want the league championship but also the possibility of a CIF championship as well. We just have to think about the future of CIF and keep focus on each day in front of us with the outlook for the future.”
The Wildcats are led by sophomore Rori Fanning, who had just moved from Texas, and four-year player and senior Allison Hwang. Fanning wants to improve on her short game in the hopes of herself and her team competing at the CIF level.
“I’m happy about getting to go to some courses around the area and getting to know my teammates better,” said Fanning. “We practice a lot on our short game since it is such an important part of the game. Our team helps each other a lot, but I would like for us to get together more and hang out outside of golf more so we can get closer and help each other out more.”
Hwang’s focus for this season is to maximize team effort and relationships with one another. Hwang wants to enjoy the walk in her last season of high school golf.
“We’ve been having a lot of new members that we got from the freshman and sophomore class that we didn’t meet because of COVID,” said Hwang. “Coach Holen always just tells us to have fun. He never allows us to stress over results. Golf can be a huge lesson for all the girls on the team so even if they don’t want to pursue golf later in life, they can use golf to learn how to persevere in the future.”
The Valencia Vikings finished in second place in the first matchup of the season and are led by second-year head coach Robert Waters. Waters, who was also part of the Valencia football staff for 17 seasons, says the standard for Valencia is to win the league title, but this season they have a huge obstacle with West Ranch standing in their way.
“The girls know what West Ranch is capable of and they are looking forward to the challenge.” said Waters. “Last season it was a lot tougher for us to practice with the places we normally go to for practice being completely full of people due to COVID. This year it has been much better. As long as we stay positive and work through our bad shots, we will be just fine.”
The Vikings’ leading scorer for the first competition was Jillian Leh, who finished 3-under par and was the lowest scorer out of all the players in the league. The Vikings were only 12 points behind the Wildcats.
Hart High School
Hart Indians head coach Steve Lindberg enters his sixth season and the team finished third in the league’s first matchup. Lindberg says the team has high expectations this season with all the returning seniors on the team and he expects them to perform to the best of their ability, especially with most of them being on the team at least three years.
“The girls have to go out there and be confident and believe in their ability to perform well,” said Lindberg. “The girls need to always remember we’re playing the course, playing par. They’re not playing against any other players. When they can focus on their own game and stay focused on good shot making, good course management, their scores will always be lower.”
The Indians are led by their four-year senior Peyton Grider, who is looking to get a scholarship. Grider wants to keep a positive atmosphere for all the golfers, especially coming out of a pandemic.
“I aim to go one or two over or under each game,” said Grider. “For me to get a scholarship I need to keep practicing on my short game. Most of all for our team I just want us to stay focused on the season. When we stay focused and help each other on the course and teach each other, it really helps us. Even when having a bad day, just learn how to score.”
Saugus High School
The Saugus Centurions are led by second-year head coach Rich Gutierrez and placed fourth in the league’s first matchup. Gutierrez’s main goal for his team this season is to continue and develop despite the anomaly from the previous season.
“We had a bunch of underclassman golfers that were dynamite last season,” said Gutierrez. “I can’t wait to see how they do individually or team-based. The goal is to just get better every day, not just as golfers but also as people. There is a philosophy behind golf that I believe the girls can learn from the more they play.”
The Centurions are led by senior Brooke Maxwell and junior Madison Seifer. Maxwell has been on the team all four years of high school and hopes she can make CIF as an individual. However, she knows she needs to have a lot of practice and work on her mental toughness to get there.
“We just need to try our best and have fun with it,” said Maxwell. “I want to play at the college level. In order to get there, I can’t worry about what others are doing. When we play in the matches it could be hard to focus on yourself. I just need to worry about my own individual score.”
Seifer has been on the team since she was a freshman but has the same mindset as Maxwell. Seifer wants to get a scholarship and has been working with coaches to hopefully play on a scholarship one day.
“Personally, I want to do good,” said Seifer. “I want the team to do well and I want to do anything I can to help the team do well. For me to play on scholarship, I need to put the work in and focus on stuff I’m not strong in. Putting in the hard work and devoting the days to hit 100 balls at the golf course and continue doing that every single day.”
Golden Valley High School
The Golden Valley Grizzlies finished fifth in the first league matchup and are currently in rebuild mode for their program. Head coach Tony Moskal wants the girls to have fun, but reiterates his team is very young, many of them picking up golf clubs for the first time, and says talk of playoffs is still a couple of seasons away. Moskal has been coaching the girls’ team for 16 seasons.
“I expect the girls to go out and have fun. It’s all a learning experience for them,” said Moskal. “We go out and practice. We practice and do what everyone else does. I always tell my girls to have fun. Let’s go out, have fun, learn about the game and get better every day. Put forth your best effort. They haven’t been playing long enough to really get upset with themselves.”
The young Grizzlies are led by freshman Bailey-Fera Lieberman and sophomore Kalia Jones. Lieberman just wants to see improvement for her team and believes the team is slowly getting to where they want to be.
“Practice has been pretty normal and what I expected it to be,” said Lieberman. “I love that it’s peaceful while also being something you can work at. I’ve always liked playing golf. I was never good at other sports and golf has been my sport to play.”
Jones joined the team this season and is really excited about the season so far. Jones said she looks forward most to meeting new people and joined because her sister also plays golf.
“I’ve been meeting a lot of new people and learning a lot about golf,” said Jones. “Meeting new people is something I look forward to. We get paired up with different schools and girls each time. We meet a lot of new people and make a lot of friends.”
Canyon High School
In comparison to the top teams and much like Golden Valley, Canyon is looking to rebuild the program and focusing on the next two seasons. Head coach Brian Ingino enters his 12th season and the team was unable to place in the league’s first matchup due to not having enough players on the roster.
“My team fell apart because of COVID,” said Ingino. “I lost all my returners except for one and have 12 new freshmen and sophomores picking up clubs for the first time. I’m hoping to see my one returner compete in the top 10. I’m hoping to field out at least six girls by the end of the year.”
The star player and returner Ingino mentions is senior Vivian Lee. Lee has been on the team since her sophomore year, which is the first time she ever started playing golf, and is trying to get the results she feels she set herself up to deliver. Lee wants to have fun with the other girls and recommends her teammates keep golf as a hobby for the rest of their life.
“I started playing golf with no expectations, but based on how I’ve been performing I would consider playing at the collegiate level,” said Lee. “Overall, the team mentality is to just stay focused on having fun out there. Playing the game and hopefully see good results and see what happens from there.”