By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
Following last year’s run to the Division I district tournament, Geneva girls golf coach Rob DiPofi and his Eagles were on a mission to return to that level and, hopefully, take the next step forward.
Today, Geneva gets that opportunity.
Led by defending state champion sophomore Danielle Nicholson, the Eagles head back to The Legends in Massillon to battle for the right to be one of the five teams out of the 16-team tournament to punch a ticket to Columbus.
In addition to Nicholson’s experience during last year’s state run, DiPofi will also be able to draw on the experience of seniors Megan Lara and Cami Dodge, who were also members of last year’s team.
“I’d like to think Cami, Megan and Danielle will parlay their experience from last year come (today),” DiPofi said. “We beefed up the schedule a little bit this year and I think that helps. Most of the teams we’ll be competing with probably play 7-10, 18-hole tournaments a year and sometimes that’s difficult to contend with. But we added a few this year and I think that will help.”
Joining the trio from last year’s team will be Nicole Grimmett, who shot a 99 at last week’s sectional.
DiPofi is still deciding who will be Geneva’s fifth player today.
Abbey Scoville played in the fifth spot at the sectional and shot 103, but DiPofi could be going with Megan Kern for the final spot.
Nicholson fired a course record for women with a 69 at Tamer Win at the sectional while Dodge shot a 89 with Lara following closely with a 90.
If the experienced trio of golfers can go low, DiPofi believes his team has a shot to make it to Columbus.
“We went over it with Cami, Megan and Danielle, the ideal scores to shoot and the main thing is to try to shoot better than last year,” he said. “If those three can get us a total of 240 I’m confident we can get another score from Nicole, Abbey or Megan that can get us to a good number.
“A number like 335 still might not be enough, but I can live with that. If everyone improves upon what they shot last year then I’ll be totally satisfied.”
For perspective on what the Eagles are facing today, here are the teams that qualified for the district tournament with their score from sectionals in parenthesis:
Highland (298), Massillon Jackson (302), Magnifcat (312), Hoover (312), NDCL (326), Canfield (333), Dover (342), Geneva (347), Walsh (348), Hudson (349), Howland (356), Avon (362), Solon (367), Avon Lake (372), St. Joe’s Academy (377) and Stow (386).
With that said, DiPofi said it’s worth mentioning that in golf, making the district tournament is more like making it to the regional level in sports like basketball or baseball, because the next step is the state tournament.
Along those lines, DiPofi said he’s thrilled with the state of his program after making it to the district tournament in back to back years.
“It gives me goose bumps a little bit, honestly,” he said. “This is Year 5. I think I’ve spent more time worrying about next year and the year after and trying to get kids to play in the future. It’s great achievement for them and I think it’s gone way under the radar. Danielle is obviously the lynch pin for all this, but I don’t want to get lost with the girls who played last year and the ones who are playing this year.
“I always trying to get a look at what’s going on overall and at some point I’m not going to have Danielle so we’re trying to build and we’ve set the bar set pretty high. We may never get back to this point.
“I try to stress to them, enjoy this regardless what happens, enjoy the opportunity because they’re few and far between. As a coach we never assume, even with talent, that we’re guaranteed to get back.”
While Nicholson’s ability to post a low number will go a long way to helping Geneva potentially advance, the key may lie with Lara’s ability to play well.
Lara shot an 81 at a tournament at The Legends at the beginning of the season.
“Megan is an exceptional talent, she’s intense, she expects a lot of her, I like that in her,” DiPofi said. “She cares shot to shot and knows what’s going on. She’s worked hard at the game and she played well down there in August and she even said she threw a couple shots away. She’s fully capable of going low, not to say Cami can’t, though.
“Cami’s been steady for four years, you watch her and you go, ‘she has a nice swing.’ You look at her numbers and they creep up on you.”
It should be noted that both Dodge and Lara have been battling an illness that effected them at last week’s sectional and could very well be a factor today.
DiPofi said he and his girls are all looking forward to the opportunity in front of them today.
“I think they’re all excited about the opportunity to represent the school, the community and the county,” he said. “I think they’re pumped about that and the teams we’re competing against. This year feels a little different, I don’t really know why. Last year I think I was very naive in thinking we could get a spot out of the five, reality is we shot 356 and that’s 25 shots off where you need to be so I’m setting the target like 325.
“That’s the target, but if we don’t get that it doesn’t detract from what we’ve done this season.”
As the biggest region in Division I, the top five teams at The Legends and the top five individuals from teams who did not qualify will advance to the state tournament in Columbus the following weekend.
Geneva tees off at 9 a.m. today.
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