The Bishop Hendricken golf team may not be among the favorites when the state tournament rolls around in May, but the Hawks will probably be in the hunt. And with a high-ceiling team, in the hunt is a good place to be.
“These kids didn’t experience it, but back in 1997, I had a team that was probably only the ninth or 10th best team in the state,” said Hendricken head coach Joe Cichon. “It was only an 18-hole tournament back then, and we put lightning in a bottle and won it. I told these guys about that to serve as a little carrot for them. I think we we’ve got the ability this year of improving to the point that we’ll be in the hunt at states.”
That improvement will be the key. At the annual challenge cup event two weeks ago, the Hawks finished fifth among Rhode Island teams. They’ll now try to climb that ladder.
“The kids were a little dismayed at finishing fifth, but I wasn’t,” Cichon said. “I think we’ve got a lot of potential this year.”
Before they can worry about how they stack up with the rest of the state, the Hawks will have to get through their divisional matches. They’ve dominated the Central Division over the years, losing just four matches in the last eight seasons and earning an automatic bid to states every time. But so far this year, both East Greenwich and Cranston West have posted a better score than the Hawks, an early sign that the division race won’t be a runaway.
“I think the division is going to be a dogfight this year,” Cichon said. “The next three and a half weeks, I think there will be a lot of close matches in the division. Hopefully, we’ll be able to navigate our way through the minefield. I’d like to finish in the top two so we can avoid that playoff.”
If the Hawks can do that, they’ll then try to live up to their potential. And there’s a lot of it.
At the top of the lineup, Hendricken has co-captains Brandon Macedo and Brendan Pagliaro as the anchors. Macedo, a junior, transferred from Cranston West last year and, by the end of last season, he was playing in the top spot.
Pagliaro is a three-year letterman who brings a lot of match experience to the table.
Behind those two, the Hawks have a number of golfers pushing for a chance. Sophomores Justin Matrone and Garret Quillen have grabbed the third and fourth spots at this point, with both showing significant improvement from last year. Dave Gooding, a junior, has also made strides and is currently in the fifth spot. John Roderick, a senior, has surged into the sixth spot with a host of good practice rounds.
In addition to the current ladder, the Hawks have six other golfers waiting in the wings for an opportunity. It all adds to a team that could do some damage if things come together like they hope.
“We’ll see how things go,” Cichon said. “There’s a lot of golf to be played. The message I gave them before our first match was that you have to commit to, every time we walk on the course, when you walk off at the end of that practice or match, you’re a better player than you were when you first teed it up.”
’Canes hoping to take the leap
In 2008, the Vets golf team struggled mightily with numbers and went 0-14. The next year, the ’Canes welcomed in a big group of freshmen, and since then, that group has steadily breathed some life back into the program. Vets went from one win in 2009 to two in 2010 to four last season.
This year, those freshmen who started in 2009 are now seniors, and they aren’t just settling for improvement anymore. They want to have some success.
“The neat thing about the group is that, without me saying anything, they expect a lot out of themselves,” said head coach Ed Walsh. “We did pretty well last year, but I think this year, they really want it. We have the ability to hang in there with a lot of the teams in our division.”
If the ’Canes can make good on that ability, they’re hoping to be in the mix for a state tournament berth. The top two teams in the division earn an automatic bid, while the next three go to a playoff for the final spot.
Vets hasn’t been in that playoff since 2002, but the team is hoping to get at least that far this season.
“It’s been four years,” Walsh said. “We haven’t done it yet, and as seniors, I think that’s their goal to at least make it to that play-in. I think it’s doable.”
The senior class is made up of returning players Greg Bennett, Andrew Bouchard, Mason Martino, Brandon McGuire and Domenic Moreira. Travis Babcock, a talented golfer who had previously played baseball in the spring, has also joined the team to make the senior class even stronger.
“This group of six seniors, most of them have been together for four years,” Walsh said. “They’re seasoned veterans. They’re not superstars, but they’re steady and battle-tested.”
Babcock has already jumped into the top spot in the lineup, while McGuire is playing No. 2. Sophomore Kyle Veyera, who had a strong freshman season and is among the team’s best golfers, is playing in the third spot.
Bennett, Moreira, Bouchard and Martino may end up rotating for the final three spots. The ’Canes also have sophomore Sean Cole and freshman Zach Levenson in the program.
“For the lineup, I could pick their names out of a hat at this point in time,” Walsh said. “They’re all solid.”
And so far, the ’Canes have been solid on the course. They’re 2-2 in league matches, with wins over Pilgrim and Toll Gate and losses to Cranston West and Hendricken.
That record has the ’Canes in fourth place. If they can be there at the end of the season, they’ll be right where they want to be.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” Walsh said. “We’re going to be in a lot of the matches. These guys have been out there, and I hope that they have some success. They sure as heck deserve it. It won’t come easy but it’s certainly doable.”
Titans look for return to states
Toll Gate has been among the top five teams in the Central Division in each of the last seven seasons, and the Titans would like to remain there this spring. They’d also like to get one step further.
The Titans haven’t been to the state tournament since 2008, when they won the three-team playoff that determines the third and final bid from the division. Every year since, the Titans have been in that playoff but haven’t been able to get out.
“We’re right in the middle of the pack in our division, which is kind of where we’ve been the last few years,” said head coach Bill Russo. “The automatic bids for the top two spots are probably out of reach, but I expect us to be in the mix for those three, four and five spots. If things work out and we could win a playoff and get back to states, that would be fantastic.”
The Titans will have some work to do to make that happen, but with experience at the top of the lineup and some young talent coming up, they figure to have a shot.
Leading the way for the Titans is senior Phil Krause. As a junior last year, Krause shot a 76 on the first day of the state tournament and sat in fifth place. Though he struggled on the second day and ended up finishing 27th, his day-one performance was a sign of what he’s capable of. Krause has shot a 39 and a 42 so far this year.
“Phil is the mainstay for us,” Russo said. “He’s a four-year player who’s been in the lineup consistently every year. We’re looking for a big year out of him. He’s very capable. He works very hard on his game. It’s the only sport he plays and he plays year round. In the winter, he’s in Seekonk doing indoor stuff. It’s his main focus.”
While Krause will likely pace the Titans all season, he isn’t the only experienced golfer who’s capable of turning in good numbers. Senior Danny Holmes has been with the team for several years and has already carded a 40 this year. Seniors Matt Rocheleau, Matt Viner and Alexis Dengel are also capable. Junior Rachel Willett, who has a lot of match experience as well, joins Krause, Holmes and Rocheleau in the team’s top four.
The rest of the lineup is more up in the air, with juniors Katherine Hogan and Jennifer Park and freshmen Abby Ellis and Andrew Rocchio all in the mix.
“We’ve got a lot of experience at the top and then a lot of inexperience towards the end of the lineup, so it’s definitely a mix,” Russo said. “At practice, our first three or four spots are solidified, and after that, we kind of qualify on a daily basis. We’re pretty even so whoever plays the best that day gets a shot in the match.”
The Titans have gone 1-3 so far this season, with a win over Cranston East and losses to East Greenwich, Hendricken and Vets.
Strong individuals lead way for Pats
Team success is going to be hard to come by while playing in the Central Division alongside perennial powers like Hendricken, Cranston West and East Greenwich, but the Pilgrim golf team has the pieces in place to make some noise on an individual level.
And most of it will come from the Pats’ talented group of girls, two of whom are at the head of the pack.
The team’s No. 1 player is senior Susie Cavanagh, who is back for her fourth year with the team. She’s coming off her best high school performance last season, in which she shot 84 in the girls’ state tournament and finished in third place.
Cavanagh then parlayed that success into a sixth-place finish at New Englands. With last year’s Rhode Island runner-up, La Salle’s Juliet Vongphoumy, gone to graduation, Cavanagh figures to be one of the favorites for this year’s title along with last year’s winner, Prout junior Nicole Scola.
“She’s looking to improve on that this year, and the biggest thing that I see in her is the consistency already,” Pilgrim head coach Owen Paquet said. “She didn’t have that at the beginning of the golf season last year, so this year she looks like she’s driving the ball, chipping and putting. Good mental state. I hope to see her compete for finalist in the state championship and go to New Englands and be better than sixth place there.”
Playing in Pilgrim’s No. 2 spot right now is junior Casey McCormick. McCormick finished in a tie for 15th place at last year’s girls’ tournament, posting a 109.
So far this season, she’s shooting in the mid 90’s. With another year under her belt, and a significant amount of improvement already being shown, Paquet is hoping McCormick can also get into the mix on the state and New England levels.
“The biggest thing for her is that she’s getting off the tee box with the driver very well,” Paquet said. “I’d like to see her get in the top 10, as a goal, because that will bring her to New Englands. She’s definitely able to do that, and if it was today, her scores would prove that.”
After those two at the top, Pilgrim has some others that are all in the mix for some playing time at the three, four and five spots.
Senior John Gormley should be in the regular lineup, and Paquet expects him to be play either No. 3 or No. 4. The Pats are also looking for solid rounds from juniors Taylor Stringfellow and Rich Crothers, and freshman Jaycene Chattele.
Sophomore Taylor Ryan and junior Alex Seubert are also contributing.
On the heels of last year’s 3-11 season, the Pats are currently 1-2 this year. They beat Cranston East 213-263 last Wednesday, before falling 161-198 to Cranston West and 194-198 to Warwick Vets the following day.
Pilgrim was scheduled to play Monday against West Warwick and Toll Gate, with the results unavailable at press time, before taking on East Greenwich and Hendricken at Potowomut Golf Club at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We’re hoping just to stay consistent, keep our leadership up and try to get as many wins as possible,” Paquet said.