Area girls golf powers remain the teams to beat in their respective leagues

Area powers remain the teams to beat in their respective leagues

ragostini@modbee.comSeptember 23, 2013 

JBL Turlock CC Golf 1

Brooke Riley of Manteca chips to the green on Tuesday afternoon (08-06-13) during the second day of the Turlock Country Club junior golf tournament in Turlock, Ca.

JOAN BARNETT LEE — Modesto Bee Buy Photo

— The Enochs High Eagles seek a fourth Modesto Metro Conference girls golf title over the last five years.

The Turlock Bulldogs, who compiled 101 straight dual victories, gun for a 10th straight Central California Conference title.

The East Union Lancers of Manteca, winners of six Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 titles over the last seven years, aim for an eighth straight Valley Oak League championship.

The Escalon Cougars have claimed section Division 5 titles in 2009 and 2010 and runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2012, plus three Valley Foothill League titles since '09.

The Central Catholic Raiders, winners of 97 straight duals, are favored to annex their seventh straight league crown (three in the Valley Foothill, the last three in the Western Athletic).

The message: They're called dynasties for a reason. You won't find a one-year wonder here.

"We try to drive the girls to be better than they think they can be," East Union coach Dennis Wells said. "I don't think anyone outworks us."

Wells' words probably apply to all the girls golf programs who've sustained their success. Finding the players and developing them is the not-so-secret formula.

The hard work and passion is personified by East Union sophomore Brooke Riley, the Stanislaus District's top player. The Bee's Player of the Year as a freshman, the slender 5-foot-6 lefty only has gotten better.

Riley won six Junior Golf Association of Northern California overall tournament titles during her busy summer, which leaves her No. 1 on the overall JGANC points list. Increased clubhead speed translates into longer tee shots for the 15-year-old who's better at this point of her prep career than Lancer graduate Krysta Clark (Fresno State).

Her memory also motivates her. A tough putting day at last fall's Section Masters event brought Riley's season to an end four strokes away from a NorCal berth.

"She is a much better player now," Wells said. "Her wins over the summer really helped her confidence."

Here is a quick view of the girls golf scene with league races already under way:

MODESTO METRO — The Enochs team was inspired by a recent practice session with Enochs graduate Shawnee Martinez, the only golfer in section history to win three Section Masters titles (2009, '10, '11). Martinez already has posted a top-10 finish in her first tournament as a Long Beach State sophomore.

The Eagles responded by winning their first four MMC matches. Alyse Padilla, an all-league choice last year as a freshman, again leads her team along with Angela Pierce and ShiAnn Anderson.

Beyer senior Angela Micheletti also is among the MMC's best.

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA — Merced, which snapped Turlock's long winning streak last year, defeated the Bulldogs by 22 strokes earlier this month. It was believed to be the first time the Bears ever won at Turlock Country Club.

Merced, featuring sophomore Netanya Hernandez and senior Marissa Castillo, could end the Turlock dominance. The Bears won the 14-team Merced Invitational last week. Turlock, minus the graduated CCC stars Hannah Gong and Kelsi Valenzuela, already anticipate the rematch with juniors Sarah Garcia and Bergen Benedict.

Pitman sophomore Taylor Beckwith, another player who improved through summer junior golf, shot 85 en route to medalist honors at the Merced Invitational. Heather Parker of Buhach Colony leads the Thunder.

VALLEY OAK — Riley averaged 38 strokes per nine-hole round as the Lancers opened the VOL race with four wins, including an important 13-stroke victory last week at Sonora. She and Jordan Vinson top the East Union lineup.

Sonora should contend all season with seniors Emma Holloway and Tallon Popovich. Oakdale's Mabel Wong, one of Northern California's top juniors, elected not to play for the second straight season.

WESTERN ATHLETIC — Central Catholic bonded over the summer with a trip to Monterey for rounds at Black Horse and Pacific Grove. The Raiders spotlight five seniors who've played since they were freshmen — All-WAC returners Emily Raspo and Courtney Kim, along with Dannielle Heath and Tori and Lexi Abbate. They're 5-0 for a program that hasn't dropped a dual since the 2006 final match.

One of the league's top returners is 2012 MVP Caitlin Pfaff of Ceres. Another player to watch is Patterson senior Sarah Sanchez.

VALLEY FOOTHILL — Escalon has enjoyed steady success in the VFL, which combines teams from the Trans-Valley, Mother Lode and Southern leagues. Piper Rockwell, a junior, paced the Cougars to a 5-0 start. Escalon took a step forward last week by beating defending VFL North Division champion Bret Harte at Greenhorn Creek. Molly Landon paced the Cougars with her 51. The Bullfrogs should chase Escalon with seniors Rilee Hillman and Jaymie Heryford. Ripon also may be a factor with senior Sienna Starck.

In the VFL South, defending champion Hughson and Hilmar are favored. The Yellowjackets are anchored by sophomore Makena Azevedo and senior Amber DeSalles. Hughson counts on juniors Mary Lambert and Jayna Patel to cover for the injury loss of the only senior returner Mackenna Sullivan.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports.

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