By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
Valencia boys’ golf won its first league championship in over 20 years on Thursday after winning its fourth league match of the season Wednesday.
Vikings sophomore Taylor Cotti was named Foothill League MVP after finishing his first varsity season with 374 strokes and two league match medals.
Cotti was one of three golfers to take home multiple medals this year, joining Hart’s Kai Miyata and West Ranch’s Cody Martzke.
“Taylor, a multi-sport student-athlete, chose to fully commit to golf this year and what a year he’s had,” said Valencia head coach Robert Waters. “L.A. City junior champ and now Foothill League MVP, moving onto the postseason. He’s worked so hard on his game this past year.”
Hart took its first win in its fifth league match at the Oaks Club. Miyata and teammate Palmer Freeman co-medaled for Hart.
It was the Indians’ first match at full strength with injuries plaguing the team all season.
Miyata has been out since medaling in the league opener while Freeman also missed some time earlier in the year.
It has been a three-horse race all year with Valencia, Hart and West Ranch crowding the top three spots at all six league matches. The Indians showed some depth and grit, finishing strong while missing two of their best. Low scores from Nathan Ekins and Dylan Burcham consistently kept Hart afloat in the league race.
“We have had some sickness and injuries,” said Hart head coach Steve Lindberg, “But there are no excuses. It is a ‘next man up’ mentality and when called upon everyone came ready to play and performed with confidence. I am very proud of these young men and all they have accomplished to this point as a team.”
Valencia came up clutch in its final league match and had four golfers finish under 76 strokes.
Martzke would finish his regular season strong with a -1 finish and steal the top spot for West Ranch. Martzke’s second medal-worthy outing was just the second under-par score this year in the Foothill League.
Martzke finished just five strokes behind Cotti and will continue his season in CIF along with the Wildcats’ other medalist Andrew Tuazon.
Cotti ended up one stroke behind Luke Rimkunas, who finished +1 on the day and led the Vikings for the first time this season.
“Our backs were somewhat against the wall today,” said Waters. “We struggled yesterday and needed to rebound. For us to shoot our lowest number of the year shows the type of character and clutch ability these boys have.”
Valencia will now send a league-high three players to CIF to continue their season. Rimkunas, Cotti and Ethan Cho all finished top-seven in league action, registering the qualification.
“I knew Ethan and Luke could make it to CIF individuals and I look forward to watching all my teammates succeed in team play,” said Cotti. “But I believe all the props go to coach Waters, who really pushed us all season and prepared us to be the best team we could be.”
Hart also had two golfers qualify for CIF in Freeman and Burcham.
Freeman will return to CIF, where he made a deep run last season as a sophomore. Burcham has made a name for himself and will look to do the same.
“Dylan has been our team’s iron man this season, playing in every match while consistently posting scores in the 70s,” said Lindberg. “He ended league play shooting a 74, his best, and is looking to post some low scores in the playoffs.”
Castaic’s Charles Bailey finished his year strong with a +4 day, his best mark of the season.
Saugus crunched out its best scores since the first league match thanks to solid marks from Brady Kline, Christian Rickett and Sage Marvin.
West Ranch and Hart fell just short in the league title race. Both teams came up less than nine strokes short of the Vikings three times.
Valencia, with no seniors in its starting lineup, will return everyone to defend their crown next season.
“The last time the Vikes were Foothill League champs, these boys were not even born yet,” said Waters. “It’s been a long time, so it’s quite an accomplishment. The alumni have been blowing up my phone, giving congratulations.”
The remaining teams will now have some time off before heading into team divisional and individual playoffs.
Cotti and the other top seven who qualified will hit the green Monday, May 9, at Los Robles in Thousand Oaks.