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Norwalk Hour Staples Golf Preview

Varsity - 2010 Season
Posted Thursday, April 08, 2010 by Norwalk Hour
The 2010 high school golf season is barely a day old and already you can sense there's something different about the five area boys teams.

Look no further than Oak Hills where both local teams practice every day. That is, when it isn't raining.

But weather aside, Norwalk High coach Ray Kodel says this year's team definitely appears improved, while Brien McMahon coach Bo Kane reports his club has probably dropped a notch from the past few seasons.

All of which should make the May 4 showdown between the Bears and Senators something to look forward to as NHS tries to snap a three-match losing streak against its city rivals.

Meanwhile, Staples and Weston are both coming off state championship seasons in 2009, and Wilton came close to winning an FCIAC title. All three area teams lost some key players, but don't expect any of them to disappear in a bunker somewhere. They should all be in playoff contention again this spring as well as back in the state tournament.

Staples and Weston are the only two area schools with girls golf teams. The Trojans appear to be strong once again as they look to repeat as SWC and state champs, while the Wreckers, just three years removed from back-to-back state titles, look to get back to the state tournament after failing to qualify last year.



STAPLES

The Wreckers went a perfect 17-0 last season, finished third in the FCIAC (one stroke out of a playoff), and then captured the CIAC Division I state title by four strokes over four-time defending state champ Simsbury, and nine strokes over third-place Greenwich, which won the FCIAC.

But the big news out of Westport this season is not who's back, but rather who's not. Andrew Gai, an All-FCIAC and all-state golfer as a sophomore last season when he earned the Staples team MVP award, has decided not to play this year in order to concentrate more on playing junior tournaments.

"He's arguably one of the best junior players in the state," said veteran Staples coach Tom Owen.

In addition, Charlie Knofla, a four-year varsity golfer, graduated.

"Those are two big losses," Owen added.

The Wreckers, however, do return senior co-captain Dylan Murray, junior co-captain Kirk Massie, and sophomore Austin Alianiello, the other three players in the varsity lineup most of last season.

Murray, who received the Staples Coach's Award, and Massie were both named All-Central Division in 2009. Massie, who tied for seventh at the D-I state tournament with a 74, also earned all-state honors.

Junior Brian Wolgast, who made a couple of varsity starts last season, fellow juniors Conor Mahoney and Dustin Lowman, and sophomore Sam Shafer are competing for the final two spots in the lineup.

"I see them kind of battling it out for the fourth and fifth spots," Owen, now in his 18th season as head coach at SHS, said. "They're not Andrew Gai, but they're all certainly capable of shooting in the mid to high 30s on a consistent basis. If we get that out of them with Dylan, Kirk and Austin anchoring the first three spots, I think we'll do well.

"I see us being competitive again this year," Owen concluded. "As I told the kids, last year is over. It was a great year. But now we have to start fresh and start over. We have to look ahead, not back."



Staples girls

The Lady Wreckers had quite a run during the last decade. After four straight FCIAC runner-up finishes from 2000-03, and two more close misses in 2004 and '05, the Staples girls finally won everything in sight in 2006, going undefeated and capturing both the FCIAC and state championships.

They repeated as state champs and finished runner-up in the conference in 2007, and were state runners-up in '08.

Last season, however, the Westporters were on the outside looking in when the postseason came around.

"It was a rebuilding year for us and it looks like another one this year," veteran coach Bob Byiteck, starting his 15th season, said. "Our goal again is to qualify for the state tournament."

One thing is for sure, however. The Wreckers will definitely be back in the FCIAC tournament. That's because beginning this season, all nine conference schools that offer girls golf will qualify for the FCIAC tournament June 2 at Smith-Richardson in Fairfield.

Senior captain Annie Parkinson is the lone returnee who played regularly for Staples last year, while sophomore Sarah Resler and Kim Hnyes both "have some varsity experience, but limited," according to Byiteck.

Sophomore Eliza Duvall, junior Caela McCann, senior Emma Lostus and freshman Erika Stein, all up from JV, have looked promising and are vying for varsity spots.

"We're looking to improve as the season goes and hopefully play well enough to be one of the 12 teams to make it to the state tournament," Byiteck said.

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