AVON LAKE — The final Westlake score went up on the board at Sweetbriar Golf Club and the right hands of Highland players went up along with it. High-fives were traded around a plastic table as the inexperienced Hornets surprised even themselves.
For the 10th consecutive season, coach Mary Becker’s girls golf team moved on to the Legends of Massillon Division I District thanks to a fourth-place finish with a 363 score at the Sweetbriar Sectional. Medina (353) also qualified, while Wadsworth junior Secilia Ho made it 3-for-3 in her career as an individual with an 80.
Highland lost first-team All-Ohioans Madison Butler and Christina Williams to graduation from a D-I state runner-up team, but tradition came through.
“I’m very excited. It’s great to be going with the team again,” beaming No. 1 Alicia Porvasnik said. “I knew we could do it going into it. These girls, they’ve been working hard all season, and it’s amazing that we get to go together. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
With older sister Jessica, the 2012 Ohio state champion and 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year at Ohio State watching intently, Porvasnik continued her late-season surge with a 5-over-par 77 that tied Magnificat’s Aly Kovach and Avon Lake’s Paighton Masterson for medalist honors.
The four-year starter and surefire college player carried the load, as expected, and, also as expected for one of the best players in school history, didn’t feel she played that well.
No one else broke 90, but letterwinner Tiffany So (94) and first-year starters Chelsea Mann (95) and Bridgette Waldo (97) limited major damage to give Highland enough firepower to outlast Westlake (368) for the final qualifying berth.
“If we played pretty well, I knew we could make it out,” Porvasnik said.
The Bees entered the mentally exhausting 80-degree day — the event didn’t end until nearly 5 p.m. — confident of success. Star Alyssa Drehs took the previous week off for rest and responded with an 82, giving Medina a good base.
Balance was the theme from there, as senior No. 5 Rebecca Prandi, who played her way into the lineup recently, provided a critical 90. Sophomores Maddie Debnar (90) and Erin Frey (91) also scored as Medina picked up confidence after losing the Greater Cleveland Conference championship last week.
The Bees believe they can make a surprise run next week if they can match a 331 shot at the Medina Invitational last month.
“I’m really proud of the girls. This is a huge accomplishment,” Drehs said. “We had this goal all throughout the season to make districts, and if we make it to state, that’s huge, especially rebounding after last week coming in second place for the GCC. This is something good that’s sitting in our stomachs.”
Playing alongside Drehs and Brunswick’s Ericka Marano, Ho felt she had an up-and-down round but still tied Rocky River’s Iris Shin for the top score from a player on a non-qualifying team.
The two then were forced to play a controversial playoff — both Grizzlies coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. and the Pirates’ Rick Haag argued against it — to determine seeding for next week, with Ho losing. Most other sectionals use nine-hole scorecard playoffs to determine a winner.
“I’m pretty happy that I made it through, but I was hoping to do better score-wise,” Ho said before the playoff. “It doesn’t matter what happens (on the playoff), as long as I make it there.
“I just didn’t score well. I felt like I played a lot better than last year, but my score doesn’t show it.”
Despite Ho’s efforts, Wadsworth (372) finished sixth out of 14 teams. Brunswick (430) was 12th as Marano fired a 92, while Buckeye freshman Lilly Porta shot 141 after spending the entire season as the No. 6 for the boys team.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AVON LAKE — Results from the Sweetbriar Division I Sectional at par-72 Sweetbriar G.C. Legacy:
Standings (top 4 advance to Legends of Massillon District): 1. Magnificat 332, 2. Avon Lake 346, 3. Medina 353, 4. Highland 363, 5. Westlake 368, 6. Wadsworth 372, 7. Strongsville 385, 8. Olmsted Falls 391, 9. Rocky River 397, 10. Amherst Steele 408, 11. St. Joseph Academy 425, 12. Brunswick 430, 13. Avon 445, 14. North Olmsted 452.
Individual qualifiers: Irish Shin (RR) 80, Secilia Ho (Wa) 80, Samantha Webb (Str) 82, Elena Zaborniak (Ste) 83.
Medina (353): Alyssa Drehs 82, Maddie Debnar 90, Rebecca Prandi 90, Erin Frey 91, Alex Wiedemann 100.
Highland (363): Alicia Porvasnik 77, Tiffany So 94, Chelsea Mann 95, Bridgette Waldo 97, Tess Myers 98.
Wadsworth (372): Secilia Ho 80, Alanna Knight 93, Kelsey Palmer 99, Emily Dennison 100, Maddie Kritzell 111.
Brunswick (430): Ericka Marano 92, Morgan Briley 101, Morgan Lutch 114, Lilly O’Connell 123, Lauren Jenkins 123.
Buckeye (NS): Lilly Porta 141.