If the Upper St. Clair girls golf team was to be graded for its performance during the WPIAL Class AAA championship it might receive a D.
That “D” would stand for determination, dependency, depth and dedication, as the Panthers combined for a 340 score and defeated North Allegheny Thursday by four strokes to claim the district crown.
“Team was the key to success,” said USC head coach Katy Loomis. “These girls depend upon each other when they are out on the golf course. They are very supportive of each other, too.
“Golf is an individual sport, but just having that emotional support and knowing if you have rough day your teammate is going to be there to pick you up is absolutely a key for this team.”
Loomis said there is another critical aspect to her team’s success.
“Then there’s depth,” she said. “They are very deep. They have been all year. So there really is no telling who is going to come in with that low score that you may need to win an event.”
Sara Steve carded the low score, firing a 78 to lead the Panthers’ charge. The senior has been in this position before as USC came in third her sophomore season and second last year.
“We have been here since freshman year and we have worked our butts off to get this,” Steve said of her team’s success while noting the contributions of fellow seniors Mary Groninger and Sarah Eccher. “We deserve this one. I’m so excited. This means so much.”
Groninger, who contributed an 85 to the team’s score, agreed the championship was significant.
“We knew that we could get here all this time. We have a really deep team and all the girls work really hard and I’m just really happy,” she said.
“Our depth was the secret to success,” she added. “We can always rely on the other girls. We are never nervous about shooting our own score. We can always fall back on our teammates, which is really important.”
Steve, Groninger and Eccher, who finished with an 85, also relied upon Tori Slagle, a sophomore, and Caroline Wright, a junior. They completed USC’s line-up.
With the championship, the Panthers are now qualified for the PIAA finals set for Oct. 21-22 at Heritage Hills Golf Course in York.
“We are going after states,” said Groninger.
“Definitely,” added Steve.
Steve noted the play is a little different at the state level as while five play, only three scores count.
“So I think we need to focus on everyone giving it their all, knowing that we all have equal chance of their score counting.”
Loomis said she knows for sure the seniors will give their all because they are “great” leaders. Their determination played another role in the WPIAL title.
“They wanted it,” Loomis said. “They went out there and got it done and I think that having the experience of coming out in the past and playing definitely makes a difference as far as controlling your emotions out on the golf course.”
The experience of playing in a championship will bode well for Peters Township’s future. The Indians took third in the competition, behind USC and NA, with a 352 score. The Indians lose only one senior — Morgan Byers — from their starting line-up.
“The future is bright in Peters Township girls golf,” head coach Kevin Lawrence said.
The Indians didn’t make the playoffs last year. After sharing section honors with USC, they advanced to the WPIAL team championships in 2019.
“With really a shot to win it,” Lawrence said. “We didn’t quite capitalize.”
Though the Indians didn’t submit their best performances, Lawrence said if scores were compared, Peters Township had a chance.
Delaney Kern shot the team’s low score of 78 while Ella McRoberts posted an 85. Allison Poon and Byers finished with a 92 and 97 and Maddie Weaver’s high score was tossed out.
Throughout the regular season, Lawrence noted his No. 1 player, McRoberts, normally shot 39 on nine holes, then others would typically follow with scores around 42.
“Team work has been the key to our success,” Lawrence said. “We definitely have girls that can go low but at the end of the day we are bringing solid scores. It’s that teamwork of bringing in a great team score and it does well for us in the long run. That is why I am excited for next year.
“I’m thrilled with what we did this year but I am excited about us moving forward.”
Peters Township and Upper St. Clair weathered the elements, a record amount of rainfall, over 1.28 inches, fell during the semifinal match played at the Pleasant Valley Golf Club in Connellsville.
The Indians won the qualifier with a 344 score while, USC took third with a 348. North Allegheny secured second with a 347.
On the Par 72 course, from the blue tees that measured 5,178 yards, Sara Steve had the low score of 82. Other top scorers for the Panthers were Slagle and Eccher, both with 88s, Groninger (90) and Caroline Wright (97).
Poon led the way for the Indians with an 83. McRoberts followed with an 84. Morgan Byers (87), Delaney Kern (90) and Maddie Weaver (113) also contributed to PT’s triumph.