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Crusaders, Apollos to lead Metro girls race

Jesuit's Jennings and Sunset's Han favored in individual Metro race
by: Miles Vance SUNSET SENIOR – Sunset’s Angela Han is expected to compete for a Metro League title this year.

There's a whole lot of 'new' going on in Metro League girls golf this year.

The league features three new head coaches among the six Beaverton-area high schools, and a new addition in Lincoln - itself a state qualifier a year ago.

That said, the Metro League's top teams and players are planning to be the same old competitive and dominant in 2011.

And no team promises more in the realm of competititiveness and dominance than Jesuit. The Crusaders bring back three all leaguers led by reigning medallist Tess Jennings, and even more, a hunger for success at state after finishing second to West Linn a year ago.

'Jesuit is always the main competition for girls golf because of their depth and talent,' said Southridge coach Forrest Lamb.

'Everyone talks about Jesuit,' agreed Westview coach Bobby Fernandez. 'I would assume they are the favorite.'

Beyond the Crusaders, however, Sunset, Westview, Beaverton and Lincoln will all be in the race for the league's other team berth to the Class 6A state tournament.

'Sunset will be strong this year,' said Jesuit coach Katy Williams. And 'Lincoln will be new, so that will add to the competitive atmosphere a lot.'

I think 'Westview and Beaverton should compete for the other berth,' Lamb said.

Following are previews of the varsity girls golf teams at the six Beaverton-area Metro League schools.

Editor's note: The Valley Times was unable to make contact with Sunset coach Brent Buell or Aloha coach Brian Bakanec prior to its Wednesday print deadline.

ALOHA

ALOHA - The Aloha girls golf team is ready to go.

The Warriors know it won't be an easy go in 2011 - not in the tough-as-nails Metro League - but they're ready to take their best shots against some of the state's best teams.

This year's Warrior crew, led by third-year coach Brian Bakanec, features a brand-new lineup, and must find leadership to replace the graduated Lillette Lacaden, the team's top player in each of the past three seasons.

Vying for those leadership roles will be two seniors - Macayla O'Riley and Kaitlyn Mackenzie - along with two juniors and one freshman. While none of this year's team has much in the way of Metro League experience, the Warriors know that learning will come quickly as they are thrown into the fire of competition.

Aloha's two junior team members this year are Sheri Hines and Adrienne Foster, while Tracy Brown joins the Warrior varsity in her freshman season.

Now, the Warriors just need to start that league learning process, and put those lessons into action as soon as possible.

BEAVERTON

BEAVERTON - Beaverton just wants to compete.

The Beavers, coming off a fifth-place finish a year ago, bring back three experienced varsity players - senior Maddie Harbolt, senior Taylor Gambee, and junior Peyton Gambee - and enough new talent to give them hope for a solid 2011 campaign.

'It's hard to say (how we'll do), but I have seven girls that are capable of hitting the golf ball very well,' said first-year Beaverton coach Donna Smoot, herself a Beaverton grad who played collegiately at Washington, and later, on the Futures and Players West Golf tours. 'Building confidence in our ability will be a big key.'

And those three experienced players will have big roles in shaping the team's future and confidence.

'Each has had a lot of time on the golf course and understands the fundamentals of the swing,' Smoot said. 'My hope is that they will be very competitive in the league.'

The team will also feature juniors Ruby Lambie and Emma Parker, sophomore Brittney Paterson, and freshman Kylie Martens.

They 'are newer golfers that are excelling quickly and will be very competitive for the fourth and fifth spots,' Smoot said. I just 'hope it is a competitive season and goes right down to the last event.'

JESUIT

BEAVERTON - As good as Jesuit was last year - and the Crusaders were very, very good - the team promises to be even better in 2011.

Jesuit swept every Metro League tournament in 2010, landed all five of its varsity players on the all-league first or second teams, and eventually battled its way to second in the Class 6A state tournament.

Now, Jesuit is ready for more.

This year's team will be led by junior Tess Jennings - the reigning Metro medallist - and senior Casey Briggs, an all-league first-teamer from '10. Jennings placed 11th at the state tournament last year while Briggs finished 12th.

'Tess and Casey have been the most consistent so far,' said Jesuit coach Katy Williams, who has led Jesuit to two state crowns and three runner-up finishes since 2004. 'Along with others in the league, I think they will contend for individual honors.'

Also back with varsity experience is junior Katie Craven - a second-team all-Metro player last year who took 36th at state. And she'll be joined by freshman Helen Davis, senior Kelly Strader, junior Amelia Karakas, and freshmen Sarah Craven and Monica Reagan.

I think we have a 'good shot at being one of the top two teams,' Williams said. But 'it's hard to say with not having played in 2011 yet with these teams.'

SOUTHRIDGE

BEAVERTON - Southridge will likely be the youngest team in the Metro League this year, but that doesn't mean the Skyhawks won't be competitive.

Southridge brings back one of the league's top five players in senior Hailey Speck - a 2010 state qualifier - some talented newcomers and the desire to play its way into the top half of the powerful Metro League.

'We should be competing for the top half of the league,' said first-year Southridge coach Forrest Lamb, a former golfer at Hillsboro High School. But 'it is really dependent upon how quickly our freshmen mature, and how they fare in tournament conditions.'

Speck was a second-team all-Metro performer last year, qualified for state, and eventually placed 32nd there.

She's 'coming off a terrific junior year,' Lamb said. 'She is steady, composed and plays an all-around game.'

Joining Speck in the varsity lineup will be sophomore Lindsey Atkinson, freshmen Kayla Coleman and Elizabeth Mann, senior Samantha Benetti, and Evelyn Park.

Atkinson 'is hoping to build on a solid freshman year, where she played all but one varsity tournament,' Lamb said. 'Lindsey is a long hitter and could be a force with improvement in her short game.'

Further, Lamb said that both Coleman and Mann should be able to contribute immediately, adding that Park has a chance to be a point-scorer for the Skyhawks this year too.

SUNSET

CEDAR MILL - This may be the year for Sunset.

The Apollos sure hope so.

Sunset, a solid third in the Metro League race a year ago - where it trailed only league champion Jesuit and runner-up Westview - brings back all but two members from last year's team, and looks well-heeled to win its first team berth to the state tournament since back in 2004.

But the Apollos know it won't be easy, not in a league populated with the likes of perennial power Jesuit (second at state last year) and Westview (a team that has reached the state tournament the past two seasons).

Still, Sunset can lay claim to the second-best returning player in the league in senior Angela Han, and two other senior mainstays from last year's team, Kathryn Joseph and Virginia Vazquez. Han was the league's third-best player in 2010 (behind medallist Tess Jennings of Jesuit and the graduated Kaohi Loo of Southridge), is a three-time state qualifier, and finished 19th at the state tournament, fourth-best among Metro qualifiers.

Add Joseph and Vazquez at the top of the lineup, along with junior Danell Burke, and seniors Natalie Davies and Alex Saunders, and the Apollos appear well-positioned to make a run at one of the Metro's two team berths to the Class 6A state tournament.

WESTVIEW

ROCK CREEK - More.

When it comes to team berths to state, that's exactly what the Westview girls golf team is after this year.

The Wildcats, runners-up to Jesuit in each of the past two Metro seasons, enter 2011 with a new coach and a revamped lineup, but the same old determination to get back to state.

'I am hoping that Westview will finish in the top three,' said first-year coach Bobby Fernandez, an assistant pro at Rock Creek Country Club who previously worked at Broken Top Golf Course in Bend and at Tualatin Country Club. 'I have high hopes for my team because they are working hard on their games and want to win.'

This year's Westview team will be led by senior Nicole Smith, a second-team all-Metro player a year ago who is the fourth-best returner in the league.

'She has a very strong game and I am looking forward of seeing how she does this year,' Fernandez said, adding that Smith was third individually in the season-opening event at Tualatin.

The rest of this year's varsity roster will include seniors Stephanie Smalley, Rachel Hershey and Jean Choi, and freshman Joan Hong. Together, that group hopes to continue the tradition that began under previous coach Tim Purvis.