Every year the goal is the same, but for over a decade now it hasn’t come to fruition.
The Hendricken golf team wants to win another state championship. The Hawks have been close, and often times have played very well on the biggest stage, yet Barrington has always done a little more. Last season, the Hawks finished as the runner-up for the eighth time since 2002, with the Eagles as the champ in each of those eight instances.
This year, the Hawks will give it another try. The team looks very different from last year’s group, with only two players returning to the top six. But an influx of young talent has Hendricken optimistic again, hoping this is the year it takes the top prize in the state.
The Hawks shot a 163 in their season-opening match on Monday in a heavy wind at Warwick Country Club, defeating both Pilgrim and Warwick Vets to start out 2-0. They’re also gunning for at least a share of the Central Division title for the 11th straight year.
“I think we’re right in the mix this year, maybe even more so than we were last year,” said head coach Rick Angeli.
Hendricken graduated its top player from the last two years, Brandon Macedo, and also top-six contributor Billy Palmer to graduation. Garret Quillen is not out for the team last year, and last year’s freshman standout Claudio Soukamneuth moved to North Carolina.
That gives the Hawks a lot to replace. Luckily for them, they have some consistency at the top to get the ball rolling.
The team’s No. 1 player is senior Justin Matrone, a fixture in the lineup the last three years. In the last two seasons he has been the Hawks’ top finisher at states, including a two-day total of 151 last year that was good for sixth place overall. The season before, he took ninth. He shot a 39 on Monday.
“His game rises on the big stage,” Angeli said. “We expect big things from him. We don’t even have to say anything, because we know he expects big things from himself.”
Behind him is returner Duncan Marshall, who played No. 2 last season as well. He cracked the varsity lineup for the first time a year ago, and with that under his belt, he should be more comfortable moving forward as a valuable asset this season. Marshall shot 41 on Monday.
“His game is much more consistent than it was last year,” Angeli said. “We’re expecting big things from him, too.”
Playing in the No. 3 spot right now is freshman Joe Tucker, who has the potential to burst onto the scene in a big way. He shot 42 on Monday.
“Joey Tucker has as much talent as anyone on this team,” Angeli said. “Last year he was a quarterfinalist in the state junior. He’s got the potential to be as good as anybody in the state as a freshman.”
In the No. 4 spot is sophomore Zach White, who was on the team last year but didn’t crack the top six. He fired a 41 on Monday.
Rounding on the top six are freshman Sean Irons and sophomore Gavin Marshall.
Another player vying for time is senior Jonathan Umbriano. Junior transfer Sal Savastano has to sit out matches until May due to transfer rules, but he will likely be in the top six as well when he returns.
The varsity roster has 12 players, with another 12 on a JV team that is playing at Harbor Lights Golf Club this year for the first time ever. That gives the Hawks plenty of depth going forward and optimism for the future.
“I think we’ve got some solid guys at the top that have been around,” Angeli said. “They’ve played, they know what to expect. Then we’ve got some younger guys, but some guys who have some game.”
The Hawks will be trying to translate all of that into a title. They were scheduled to be back in action on Wednesday against Cranston West and West Warwick, with the results unavailable at press time. On Monday, they’ll play in the Challenge Cup tournament before taking on Toll Gate at Quidnessett Country Club the following Monday.
“We started on March 17 with the goal of winning the state championship and that’s our primary focus,” Angeli said. “That’s no disrespect to any other teams in our division. We’ve got to get through our regular season schedule. But everything that we do from practice, from matches during the year, everything we do is built towards the state championship.”
Titans top four lead the way
The Toll Gate golf team won only two matches last year, a down season for a program that has traditionally been a solid contender in the Central Division.
With some continuity at the top of the lineup this season, and numbers trending upwards, the Titans aren’t planning on spending another year near the bottom.
Toll Gate has four of its top five players back from last season, and, in its opening match of the season on Monday, it put up a 224, a score better than three other teams in the division shot at various locations.
With some luck, that number will come down, and the Titans will be competitive with most of their opponents. A spot in the playoff round between the No. 3, 4 and 5 teams in the division is what they’re gunning for. The top two teams in the division earn an automatic bid in the state tournament. The next three battle it out for the third spot.
“That’s where I anticipate us,” said head coach Bill Russo. “Hopefully we can get into that playoff that we have with the 3-4-5. That would be a good experience for these kids.”
The Titans graduated Rachel Willett – a solid contributor for the past few years – from the top of their ladder, but they bring back sophomores Kevin Browning and Nicole Krause and juniors Andrew Rocchio and Abby Ellis.
Those four make up the core.
“The four of them are so close that that order literally changes from week-to-week,” Russo said. “They’re anywhere from high 40’s to mid 50’s, typically.”
On Monday, the Pats lost to perennial division contenders East Greenwich and West Warwick, but Browning – who is currently playing No. 1 – and Rocchio led the way with 52’s. Ellis was third on the team with a 59, and Krause finished fourth with a 61.
“The one through four spots, we’ve got some stability there with the kids who have played before,” Russo said.
The rest of the lineup is still up in the air. Sophomore Jacob Dickinson shot a 67 on Monday, while sophomore Brent Loring fired a 79. On Wednesday, in a match with Pilgrim and Cranston East, freshman Rory Dobbins was in the lineup.
Two others on the team are Connor Brennan and Morgan Candon.
There are no seniors on the team.
“They’re just going to kind of rotate into those five and six spots throughout the season,” Russo said.
The Titans will have some time to sort it out. While the results of Wednesday’s match were unavailable at press time, Toll Gate will be off until Monday, April 28, when it takes on Hendricken at Quidnessett.
They’ll try to keep the scores headed in the right direction, especially in their top four.
“It’s a matter of getting the rust off as fast as we can,” Russo said. “It’s been a tough, tough spring.”
Pats bring back core
The Pilgrim golf team doesn’t have a lot of members, but it’s plenty happy with the ones it does have.
The Pats are only six-deep on the roster, with just four players getting into matches at the moment. Three of those players, though, are regulars from last year while the fourth was on the team. The top two players from last season – Rich Crothers and Casey McCormick – have graduated.
Pilgrim went 6-8 last year, its best season since 2008. If things fall the right way in 2014, the Pats might be in a similar spot. They opened the season with a 249 on Monday at Warwick Country Club, good enough for a 1-1 mark. They defeated Warwick Vets by one stroke and fell to Hendricken.
“I really think this year we’ll be competitive with Vets, Toll Gate, Cranston East,” said head coach Owen Paquet. “It’s very difficult to beat Hendricken and Cranston West and East Greenwich.”
At the top of the ladder is sophomore Liam Strain, who played in the No. 3 spot last year as a freshman. He carded a 58 in windy conditions at Warwick on Monday. When the weather improves, Paquet expects Strain to score in the high 40’s.
“He’s increased his skill a ton this year,” Paquet said. “He’s working hard at practice driving and keeping the ball in play.”
Playing No. 2 is junior Jaycene Chattele. She shot 60 on Monday, and is hoping to qualify for the girls’ state championship after missing it by one stroke last year
“She’s looking to increase her mental game,” Paquet said. “Her physical game is excellent. She’s looking to break 50 and make the girls’ state championship.”
The No. 3 player is senior captain Taylor Ryan, who carded a 62 on Monday. She’ll be angling to break 60 this season while also providing some leadership.
“She’s showing good leadership and working hard with the team,” Paquet said.
The fourth spot is held down by sophomore Daniel Pietrantonio, a member of the team last year who didn’t get into any matches. He fired a 69 on Monday.
The other two team members are freshmen Chris Kenny and Ryan Agnew. Neither of them have played much golf prior to this spring, and the goal is to help them improve enough to get into matches before the end of the year. Right now, they’re just practicing with the team.
“I would love to see them get into a match in three weeks,” Paquet said. “We’ve been doing the accelerated golf game and they’ve really picked up a lot.”
The Pats will find out where they fall as the season continues. Right now, they’re focusing on individual goals. If everybody hits those, the team goals should come together too.
“Every person has their weaknesses and strengths and we’re just trying to maximize their strengths,” Paquet said. “Three-putts, if we can cut down on that it would be great.”
The Pats were scheduled to take on Cranston East and Toll Gate – two more winnable matches – on Wednesday, with the results unavailable at press time. On Thursday, they will take on Vets again at Valley Country Club at 3 p.m.
’Canes light on experience once again
Last year was part of a rebuilding process for the Warwick Vets golf team and it showed, as the ’Canes went 0-14 in the Central Division.
They’re in a similar boat this year. While they do have some experience at the top, No. 1 player Kyle Veyera is gone from last season and a number of players on the roster have never played before.
Improvement is the goal for now, as Vets tries to get its footing. On Monday, it shot 250 in its season-opening match at Warwick Country Club, falling by a shot to Pilgrim and also losing to Hendricken.
“We’re just going to come out and do the best we can,” said head coach Ed Walsh. “It’s hard in this game just to pick it up and start playing. We’ve got some inexperienced golfers who are going to get a chance to play.”
Vets does have some experience at the top two spots, as senior Jared Pelliccio played No. 2 last year and junior Zach Levenson played both No. 3 and No. 4.
Those two shot 65 and 60, respectively, on Monday, but with blustery conditions those scores don’t accurately reflect what Walsh things they can accomplish.
“Hopefully they can break 50,” Walsh said. “That would be great.”
The other four players in the lineup have never played in a match before. Senior John Flynn shot 62 on Monday in the No. 3 spot, and fellow senior Devon Hough shot 63 from the No. 4 spot. Junior Steven Paine shot 71 out of the No. 5 spot and junior Oliver Pinheiro shot 72 from the No. 6 spot.
The team is also hoping to get a boost from senior David MacDonald, who played in the No. 3 spot last year but is currently ineligible.
“He would be a help,” Walsh said.
Also on the team are four sophomore girls – Stephanie Racca, Aubrey Moreira, Kyle Maziuk and Andrea Lonczak – who are hoping to crack the lineup at some point. Racca got into a match last season.
“They’re still not quite ready to play in a match,” Walsh said. “They’re still practicing every day, but they’re not match ready yet.”
Vets was competitive against Pilgrim in its first match, and is hoping to pick up some wins along the way against the Pats, as well as some of the other comparable teams in the division like Cranston East and Toll Gate.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” Walsh said.
The ’Canes were scheduled to take on East Greenwich on Wednesday, with the results unavailable at press time. They’ll play Pilgrim and Cranston West at Valley Country Club today.