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Flashes in district as sectional champion

The Champion High School girls golf team is just a fourth-year program.

But the Golden Flashes will be making their second consecutive trip to the Division II district tournament after winning their first sectional title Sept. 23 by firing a 360 at Punderson.

The district tournament will be Tuesday at Sable Creek in Hartville.

Last season Champion finished third (421) in a sectional at Pine Lakes to advance to district, where it finished eighth (412) at Tam O’Shanter Hills.

But all five returnees have shaved significant strokes this season, according to first-year coach Nathan Kish.

“They have worked hard on their game and it really shows,” he said. “The biggest improvements we made were in the short game. We really concentrated on chipping and putting and the girls have done a great job with course management. I tell them all the time that bogeys are fine, but to limit the big scores.”

Seniors Sydney Huffman (85), Allison Smith (87), Kylie Gardner (91) and Julie Peace (97) led the way at sectional and junior Allyson Wenger (105) followed.

Th?eGolden Flashes will headline a large contingent of Division II and III area golfers playing in District tournaments this week. Division I golf teams begin their postseason play this week with Sectional tournaments.

In addition, Division I and II Sectional girls tennis tournaments will be held this week.

Kish replaced Gary Israel as Champion’s girls golf coach and would like to thank him.

“To go to district for the second time in four years shows me how much these girls have learned and grown,” he said. “Gary left me in a good situation and prepared these girls well. We have experience and have some good athletes. Allison Smith and Kylie Gardner are great softball players and Sydney Huffman plays basketball. So these girls love competition and aren’t in awe of competing on the big stage.”

Smith explained the reasoning.

“This isn’t our main sport, so we just started golfing to have fun,” she said. “We didn’t expect to win the sectional and we’ll be the underdog at district. But it just is amazing to see how far we’ve come. Most of us have cut at least 20-to-30 shots off since we started in the program. Sydney and Kylie had their career-best 18-hole rounds in the sectional.”

Laurel and Cardinal Mooney represented the district at state last season and both are in the district field again, but three teams will qualify to state this year.

“We’re not playing against teams, we’re playing the course and trying to play smart,” Kish said. “Sable Creek is a new district site where we haven’t played before. But one of our parents was able to take the girls over there to size it up. We’ve got great parents and they help in every way possible. They have been instrumental to our success.”

Mooney won the sectional at Pine Lakes on Sept. 26 with a 338. Poland (364) and Hubbard (385) finished second and third, respectively, as the top four advanced to district.

The Cardinals are led by Jayne Bernard, who was a sectional medalist with a 77. Poland is led by Carly Ungaro, who tied for fourth (86) at sectional and Hubbard is led by Jacqueline Adler, who carded an 82 to finish as sectional runner-up.

Competing as an individual will be Springfield’s Madison Horvath. The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team will advance to the state tournament Oct. 11-12 at Ohio State-Gray Course.

The Division I postseason begins Tuesday with sectional play at Tamer Win Golf and Country Club in Bazetta, where Austintown Fitch, Boardman, Canfield, Howland and Niles will compete.

In boys golf, those same Division I schools and Warren G. Harding will participate Tuesday in a sectional at Tannenhauf Golf Club in Alliance.

Ursuline will compete in the Division II boys district tournament for the fourth season in a row when it tees off Tuesday at Windmill Lakes Golf Course in Ravenna. But the Irish will have to put up much better numbers than they did in winning their sectional Sept. 24 at the same site, as they posted a 370 to edge Rootstown (371) and Crestwood (375).

“This is the first time in my eight years we’ve won the sectional and we’ve had much better numbers and not won,” coach Matt Morgan said. “Still, we did what we had to do to advance and we were fortunate enough to win the sectional. You take what you can and we’re happy to win it.”

Junior Joey Brooks led the Irish last week with a season-best 88. He was followed by Nicco Sabella (91), Joey Carosella (95) and Patrick Faloon (96). Senior Ethan Sicafuse, the team’s No. 1 player, had a rough day and struggled to a 102.

“We think (Brooks) had food poisoning the night before, but he really stepped it up with a 40 (on the front side),” Morgan said. “Joey Carosella had his best score of the year, too. It’s a good sign that we had two guys with their best scores to compensate for some of their teammates. That’s what makes a team.”

Also competing as individual qualifiers will be South Range’s Kaiden Sykes and Gavin Batdorff, who advanced from the sectional at Elms Country Club of Massillon, and Champion’s Jake Witherow, Garfield’s Jake Britton and Poland’s Joey Iberis, who all qualified from the sectional at Windmill Lakes.

The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team will advance to the state tournament Oct. 11-12 at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury.

In the Division III district Thursday at Tannenhauf in Alliance, Brookfield, McDonald and Mineral Ridge will compete as teams. They will be joined by Brandon Gibson of Newton Falls, James Martuccio of John F. Kennedy, Tim Deraway of Maplewood and Kent Gross of Jackson-Milton.

The top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team will advance to the state tournament Oct. 11-12 at Ohio State-Scarlet Course.

Brookfield, led by Conner Stevens (67) and Justin Atkinson (68), totaled 303 in the sectional at Riverview, with McDonald (331) and Mineral Ridge (349) following. Michael Porter (76) paced McDonald and Mineral Ridge was led by Jake Sylak (74).

“Jake is a junior who qualified (to district) as an individual the past two years and Antonio LaMonica and Dylan Mazzupappa are four-year lettermen,” Rams coach Shawn Brown said. “So before the season I truly believed we could qualify to district as a team for the first time since 2012, but I didn’t tell the kids because I didn’t want to add extra pressure.

“You knew Brookfield and McDonald would be up there and that left just one spot. Our goal was to shoot 350 and we beat it by one stroke and really didn’t play our best. I’m happy for them.”

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