STOCKTON — The East Union High girls, hard to miss in their bright red shirts, slowly weaved through the crowded clubhouse to shake hands with the Rocklin Thunder.
The scores had just been posted on the leaderboard Monday at The Reserve at Spanos Park: Rocklin 429, East Union 430. The Girls Sac-Joaquin Section Masters team title was decided by one swing.
The Lancers narrowly missed the championship but still became the first Division 4 team to finish first or second at the Masters, the annual tournament bringing together the section's best.
East Union will advance to the NorCals next Monday at Ripon's Spring Creek Country Club, but its show of sportsmanship punctuated an eventful day.
"We can all think of strokes we could take back," said East Union sophomore Brooke Riley, who led her team with a 5-over-par 77. "It's just so exciting to move on."
The Lancers finished two strokes ahead of third-place St. Francis, the section powerhouse which had won six of the last seven Masters titles. Both teams will join Rocklin and the four low individuals next week at Spring Creek.
East Union, the eight-time Valley Oak League champion and winner of seven of the last eight D-4 blue banners, has earned its success. Team members often are seen at Manteca Park's putting green and the practice range during the summer.
Their team depth paid off in a big way at the Masters. Though their top players lacked their usual punch the promising Riley went 5-over on her final four holes the bottom of the lineup overachieved.
Three girls senior Breanna Perkins (83), sophomore Rebecca Leonard (89) and sophomore Brittany Conjin (92) all recorded career bests. Brittany Ugalino delivered an 89. Their timing couldn't have been better.
"I'm pretty surprised," said Perkins, who spent last week on a family trip to South Dakota. "I just played solid."
The Reserve, its usually tricky self with wind that either gusted or went still, challenged the section's top 14 teams and the overall field of 108.
Enochs sophomore Alyse Padilla, the only Modesto Metro Conference qualifier, slumped late in the day to an 89. Last week, she finished runner-up at the D-1 South at Turlock CC.
"I wasn't nervous on the front nine," Padilla said, "but I got nervous when it started to go bad."
Turlock, the 10-time Central California Conference champion, placed eighth, seven strokes ahead of Merced in ninth. Bergen Benedict paced the Bulldogs with her 93.
Ripon, winner of its first Division 5 banner last week, finished 13th with a 570.
"There was a little pressure to be here," Ripon senior Sienna Starck said. "I tried to remind myself to have fun."
Among the individual qualifiers, Pitman's Taylor Beckwith had an 88, followed by teammate Jasmine Ryan with a 103. Escalon's Piper Rockwell returned a 104.
After it ended, Rocklin celebrated on the 18th green while East Union posed for photographs on the nearby ninth. Riley's cartwheel demonstrated the Lancers' joy. They'll advance to the NorCals for only the second time.
"We didn't come here to qualify. We came here win," East Union coach Dennis Wells maintained. "But St. Francis is always the team to beat. To beat them and to go on to NorCals was great."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports.