Private schools expected to repeat at the top

GOLF PREVIEW - St. Mary's has the inside track to defend its girls state title
by: David Ball, Centennial junior Nick Chianello returns to the links this spring after tying for fifth at last year's Class 6A state tournament.

The private schools appear to be the class of the Mount Hood Conference golf landscape this season with the St. Mary's girls and the Central Catholic boys each poised to defend their league titles this spring.

The Blues are the dominant team in the state, returning its top four scorers from last year's squad that won the Class 6A championship by 31 strokes over runner-up Jesuit. Central Catholic graduated two of its players, including No. 1 golfer Jake Wagner, but the Rams seem to return enough talent to hold off challengers Centennial and Gresham in the boys race.

Following are previews of the five local schools:

* Centennial junior Nick Chianello has competed at the state tournament in each of his first two seasons, and this spring he hopes to bring his teammates along with him. Chianello won half of the regular-season league meets last year and finished in a tie for fifth place at state.

'He played a full summer schedule and is working to become more consistent,' Eagles' coach Ryan Ruuttila said. 'He's not going to have any really bad rounds because his technique is so good.'

He is supported by senior Joey Costa along with juniors Trent Berg and Cam Matthews.

The Centennial girls have only seven girls out this spring, led by sophomore Carolyn Auvil who filled the team's No. 5 spot most of last season.

* The Barlow boys look to protect their second-place finish from last season despite graduating a couple of its top scorers from last year. Junior Drew Johnson leads this year's squad after placing sixth at last year's district tournament. The Bruins don't have any seniors on the roster, but junior Jason Valean and sophomore Tommy Schmitz supply depth in the rotation.

The Barlow girls team will try to repeat its third-place district showing with a lineup that returns players in three of its five varsity spots. Leading the way are seniors Paige Haworth and Rachel Schmitz.

• The Reynolds boys look to make a surge into the top half of the league this year behind seniors Zach Lund and Cameron Johnson. Lund had the team's best score at district last season, missing the top-10 by just a few strokes.

'When Zach is on with his driver, he's going to have a good day,' Raiders' coach Dan Lindquist said. 'Cameron is really good at placing the ball in the right place.'

The Reynolds girls also look to move up a spot or two with senior Melanie Moore moving into the team's top spot after splitting time between No. 2 and 3 in last year's lineup.

• The David Douglas girls team returns junior Mallory Fleischmann and senior Eva Wong at the top of its lineup and will rely on some junior varsity players to step up and round out the roster.

'Mallory is a really good driver - she hits a good ball,' Scots' coach Tim Hurley said.

The Douglas boys graduated their top golfer from last season and will rely on a group of new faces to lead this year's squad. Senior Tyler Burk in the team's only returning varsity player.

• The Gresham girls team will try to stay in the top half of the league with juniors Brianne Walszak and Nicole Suyehira at the top of the lineup, while seniors Hillary Munger and Jessica Hubert add experience in the No. 3 and 4 spots.

'All of our players are capable of dropping their averages,' Gophers' coach Scott Shields said. 'It comes down to teaching them how to get out of trouble and eliminate those silly mistakes that add strokes you don't need.'

The Gresham boys team is led by Ryan Lile, who qualified for state as a freshman. First-year coach Jeff Nielson could not be reached in time for this preview.

•Next preview: Boys tennis

The full MHC golf preview appears in the Wednesday, March 19, issue of The Outlook.