Turlock High has dominated girls golf in the Central California Conference over the past decade, capturing the previous 10 CCC titles, including last year's title, but don’t count out Pitman for the 2014 season.
The crosstown rivals have been eagerly awaiting an opportunity to compete against each other and this year the Pride are looking as confident as ever coming off their 2013 third place finish.
With the help of last year’s most valuable player in the CCC, Taylor Beckwith, the Pride are hoping to be battling all season long with the defending champions and perhaps dethrone the champs — but it won’t be an easy task.
“I think the expectations stay the same with us,” said Turlock head coach Mary Krupka. “We always want to win league, followed by winning the Divisional title. The pressure has been the same for about nine years now. Teams always want to dethrone the past champion and we counter that by working hard and not allowing them.”
“Mary Krupka has a great bunch of girls and she is a great coach, she is a true leader and I wish them nothing but the best,” said Pitman head coach Kris Shaw. “The only thing we can do is focus on our game and do what we can do and work on our game as a team; they are a powerhouse and tough to compete against.”
With the season just getting started, Turlock knows that hard work must be consistent in order for them to win a title, let along 10 straight, but Krupka’s style of coaching and her ability to bring out the best in her squad has been a huge factor in the program's success.
After losing only one senior, the team returns Bergen Benedict and Sarah Garcia, who along with Michaela de Bos, Kila Coffey and Deborah Oliveira, will anchor the 2014 squad.
Incoming freshman Preethi Singh should also be one of the top five players for the varsity squad in only her first year, Krupka said.
“My players take this team and our goals seriously. They take lessons, play in tournaments during the off season and work hard during the season,” she said. “Another big part of our success is our team unity. The returning players help and take care of the new players. There is no room for drama on this team. We don't need you if you cannot be caring, thoughtful and respectful to your teammates.”
It won’t be easy to repeat as league champs, but Krupka cannot be any more confident in her team.
“The returners really stepped it up this summer and I know we have everything covered. Our league is tough, but we have every intention of winning the championship,” Krupka added. “I am sure other teams feel the same way. So, we will work hard and hopefully earn ourselves another patch.”
The Pride come off their most successful season in 2013, placing third in the CCC, which gave the team an opportunity to compete in the Section tournament for the first time in the program's history.
“I was really proud of our girls last year. We were really pushing to get top half of the conference and we met our goal, and luckily we made our way into Sections as a team,” said Shaw. “It was a huge accomplishment for the girls, they were all excited and had a great time.”
Led by last year’s league MVP in Beckwith, the Pride return three-time varsity starters for their senior season in Jasmine Ryan and Beth Sommerville for their final go at perhaps a conference title.
Beckwith is coming off an incredible sophomore season and should only improve as the season progresses, Shaw said.
“ [Beckwith] did a great job leading us into the season and she did a great job in Sections and moved on to Master’s as a sophomore and really looking forward to some big things from her,” said Shaw. “She has really been working on her game and has come along great, we're looking forward to see how she progresses with her goal to play in college.”
Behind a younger face in Nakita Samra, the Pride will look for a team effort and unity in order to stand any chance against their rivals—Turlock.
“This group is a tight knit group and have been around for a while, but I think this team is pretty close and they will do well together and kind of play off each other,” Shaw said. “I think that will be a benefit to the team and we are trying to find the total score, not just individual score, and that comes from top to bottom for our team.”