No country for off games
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, The Catalina Foothills Lady Falcons golf squad features four players who average below 40 strokes per nine, and look to take another shot at the 4A-I state title. Left to right: Brittany McKee, Morgan McClure, Laura Jabczenski and Erin McClure.

Even with four aces, it might be a rough year for the Lady Falcons to play such a great hand.

Catalina Foothills ladies’ golf coach Mark Polich says his starting quartet of sub-40 averages — each interchangeable at the No. 1 position — are still under the shadow of the Cactus Shadows team that stole away with last year’s state 4A title by 24 strokes.

“This already is the best team we’ve ever had,” Polich said. “But as state would have it, it’s going to be very, very difficult. It may be a case of bad timing.”

In Phoenix, Cactus Shadows rearmed with a pair of freshmen who overtook the team’s top two slots. So the Falcons shifted focus, and decided to break the 600-stroke match tally that would all but guarantee a state win.

While they’re at it, the girls are going to have a little fun, senior Morgan McClure said.

“This year we’re trying to make it less of a competition among ourselves,” McClure said. “By just having fun and enjoying golf, it will come out in the scores.”

McClure, with her sophomore-year sister Erin — who won this summer’s Arizona PING Junior Masters — compose half of a core that includes sophomores Brittany McKee and Laura Jabczenski.

The girls, owners of regional-champ status since 2001, shaved 37 strokes from last year’s score at the Gallery Tournament of Champions and point to that recent performance to show they’re in the running — regardless of what happens up north.

“We think we can do it if we keep a positive attitude, and don’t let it get personal,” Morgan McClure said.

The Falcons aren’t the only squad that boasts enough second-year talent to keep the shelves stocked for upcoming years.

After last year’s 5A-II Southern regional title, Mountain View girls coach Lynn Coté thinks her kids can pull the repeat, and a top goal of state semifinalist is also within reach, after an eighth-place finish in 2007.

Only two seniors, including key starter Jennifer Candanoza, fill the Mountain Lion roster, while sophomores Melissa Olson and Kayleigh Kresse round out the top three slots.

“We’re going to be real strong for the next few years,” Coté said. “This is the most dedicated group we’ve ever had.”

Graduated senior Nicole Gentry, who finished fifth in the state last year, now starts at Pima Community College — yet still shows up to advise her alma mater.

Given her contributions, Coté believes that if everything clicks, she’ll coach at least three girls shooting in the 70s come tournament time.

Such depth is nothing new to Canyon Del Oro boys’ coach John Farbarik — and remains the case this year, though the Dorados need to work a touch harder this time to reach last year’s sixth-place state finish.

Farbarik says he’s stacked with “well-rounded” raw talent now acclimating to new roles, following the departure of 4A-I state champ Travis Graves.

“Last year they knew who they were from day one,’ Farbarik said. “Now they’ve got to be on their game from Day 1.”

Senior Ryan Klump — a 2007 second-team All-Southern Arizona selection — and junior David Metz round out CDO’s one-two combo.

“We need (Klump) to be our leader every week, and he will be,” Farbarik said.

But sophomore Gentry Hicks’ recent sixth-of-120 Bradshaw Mountain Invitational finish in Prescott has gone long ways to fire up the coach over what might lie ahead.

Still, the neighboring spectre of 2007’s state 4A runner-up keeps him wary over the season’s outcome.

“Any decent bookmaker would have Foothills ahead of us,” Farbarik said.

The Falcons’ top three individual state finishers in 2007 — 10th-place senior Billy Flower, 13th-place junior Christian Muscarello and 14th-place Blake Coty — all return this year.

Foothills boys’ coach Julie Walters called last year’s finish “exciting,” but left something to be wanted.

“They did better than they expected, but they still underperformed,” Walters said.

The arrival of Andrew Gunn and Scott Morrison has made practices more competitive than ever, she added.

But whether the boys have the same fire as the Lady Falcons, to shoot for another title run, is the question.

“It’s there,” Walters said. “The boys just have to think while they play.”

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