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Competition gains ground for girls golf teams
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Local high schools throughout the Valley saw their respective girls golf squads go through a learning phase last year as Pitman High started a new era with a first year head coach; Turlock continued to excel and gain valuable experience winning their ninth consecutive league title; and Hilmar was just a few strokes from winning three straight league titles.

Turlock High returns seven seasoned players with a load of experience and should be top contenders in the Central California Conference to win their tenth title, while Pitman High went through a rebuilding year with first year head coach Kris Shaw, but this year Shaw feels his team can compete in the CCC.

“Last year was my first year as head coach, so it was a learning process with a group of girls that were very young. We only had one senior,” Shaw said. “We didn’t hit the mark we wanted, but were consistent for the most part. This year we want to eliminate our big holes and be more consistent as each hole goes for every round.”

Turlock’s coach said she is expecting big results from a team that cinched a title last year.

“This team is a bit younger than what I have had in the past years. In the past I always have a lot of older girls, but this year I have newer golfers. I am returning four players who played in almost all of our 2012 matches despite having only one senior this year,” Turlock High head coach Mary Krupka said. “We lost one match to Merced and this year we are hoping to get our tenth consecutive title.”

Before the loss to Merced, Turlock High had an undefeated record of 101 wins in a row, but the Bears caught the Bulldogs off-guard to end the streak. Top golfers for Turlock consist of Sofie Bates, Michaela DeBos, Bergen Benedict, Sarah Garcia, Brooke Vierra and Kila Coffey.

“Other teams are really going to be shooting for them, so the experienced gals are going to have to be mentally tough and the newer players are going to have to control their games and buy into our team’s game plan,” Krupka added.

For Pitman, Taylor Beckwith who is the only sophomore, will be leading the Pride as the number one after being an alternate last season as a freshman. Kayla Bennett and Nikita Samra are incoming freshman who should make an immediate impact on the varsity squad to make up a team with the most youth in the league.

“I feel we have a top five that can play consistent and this year it is about getting the girls acclimated and used to it and get used to the experience,” Shaw said. “We want to get the young girls around the older ones to be able to see the hard work it takes to be a contestant in this league.”

Coming off a disappointing 2012 season, where they looked to make it a three-peat, Hilmar High failed to come away with their third Valley Foothill league southern division title, placing second behind Hughson High. However, this year the Yellowjackets hope to make it three out of four.

“Hughson won league last year and it was disappointing, but I think it was expected because Hughson is always good. This year Hughson will be a good team and it should be a tough match up again,” Hilmar head coach Ty Pettigrew said. “It should be the same this year, but hopefully we can come away with the league championship this season.”

This will be one of the most inexperienced squads for Hilmar with one senior on the roster of five. Amber DeSalles will be a key contributor as the only senior along with Makena Azevedo, who returns after a stellar freshman year, in which she placed in the top three in all league points and should make a tremendous impact in her second year.

Mara Mitchell, Kinsey Pettigrew and Gia Barcelos will be the juniors on the squad for coach Pettigrew.

“This next year we will strive for consistency and overall improvement and that’s what we are looking for and by the end of the year we want to be peeking,” Pettigrew said.

Hilmar High faces off against Modesto Christian and Hughson at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Stevinson Ranch.

Pitman will face off against Golden Valley and El Capitan at Merced CC at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Turlock will square off against Buhach at 3 p.m.  Thursday at TGCC.