The conditions at Sable Creek Golf Course were no joke for the Division 2 Girls District Tournament in 2022. The 5,800 yard track, which includes water on half of its holes, yielded some high scores on October 6th. At the end of that balmy Thursday, three teams and three individuals had punched their tickets to The Ohio State Gray Course in Columbus to participate in the State Tournament.
The Independence Blue Devils are no stranger to the State Tournament. 2022 was a special year for another reason, though. Head coach Karl Schuld was in his final season as head of the Blue Devil program, which he started in 2014. Schuld has been the only head coach the program has ever seen and has led his squad to Columbus multiple times. Independence capped off another Chagrin Valley Conference title and another Sectional title with the District Championship after shooting 361. It was a balanced attack as all four of the team’s scorers shot within two strokes of each other. Senior Hillary Esper’s 89 led Independence, followed by junior Molly McGreal’s 90, and 91s from senior Emma Konopa and sophomore Bel Trombetta. Trombetta brought the program full circle, as her sister Sophia was Schuld’s freshman star when he started the program.
Following Independence at the District Tournament were the Hawken Hawks, who finished two strokes behind the Blue Devils. Having the defending individual state champion, senior Ella Wong, helped Hawken clinch their berth to the State Tournament. Wong, along with fellow senior Kate Petersen, helped the Hawks finish second in the Chagrin Valley Conference and second at the Sectional Tournament, both to Independence. Head coach Jennifer Creech leaned on Wong and Petersen throughout the year. She was rewarded in Columbus as Ella Wong successfully defended her state title, becoming one of the few back to back state champions in OHSAA golf history.
The Irish from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School joined Independence and Hawken at Ohio State in 2022. SVSM got increasingly better as the year went on, especially their young players, who gained confidence and comfort throughout the season. The team finished early in the day at Districts and had to play the waiting game. “We didn’t know until the very last minute that we made it,” explained Dirk Hartman, head coach for the Irish. “We finished and had to wait. It was painful watching the teams fall on the live app.” At that point, the players began to feel the same way their coach had throughout the day. “I felt helpless,” said Hartman. “It was out of our control.” When all the dust settled, St. Vincent-St. Mary was able to claim the third spot in the District Tournament and make the school’s first ever trip to the State Tournament. It was quite the ride throughout the year for the Irish, who won the Flo Barr Invitational, the Lady Irish Invitational, and the Warren Invitational. Junior Raygan Hoover was the star of the show, but it was two freshmen, including Hoover’s younger sister, that pushed the Irish over the top and made them a contender to get to Columbus. Rylee Hoover and Caitrin Coyle are those two freshmen who will be key pieces as SVSM moves forward. Junior Reese Latta and senior Lola Reynolds were also big contributors for the Irish this year.
Coming up just short of earning a spot at the State Tournament were a couple Division 2 blue bloods, the Canton Central Catholic Crusaders and the Youngstown Ursuline Fighting Irish. Canton Central Catholic came up seven shots short of catching St. Vincent-St. Mary to make a second straight appearance in Columbus. The Crusaders returned three players from their 2021 run, but with a small team consisting of only four players, they could not quite jump into the third spot. Ursuline’s senior heavy squad came up three shots behind Canton Central Catholic for the fourth spot, followed by West Branch, Chagrin Falls, and Ravenna Southeast.
Individuals advancing to Columbus were Abbie Retherford from Ravenna and Mati Zines from United, who tied for medalist honors at the District Tournament. Zines won the playoff to earn the top spot. They were joined by Siena Maschke from Laurel High School. Retherford plays on the boys team at Ravenna while Zines and Maschke both had to qualify for districts as individuals.
Congratulations to Ella Wong on her second consecutive OHSAA State Championship! Abbie Retherford finished tied for 8th place, Siena Maschke ended up in 10th place, and Mati Zines tied for 11th overall. Northeast Ohio was strongly represented by these ladies. In the team competition, Independence took home 3rd place, St. Vincent-St. Mary finished in 5th place, and Hawken earned 6th place overall.
St. Vincent-St. Mary, who brings back their entire top four, and Independence, under the direction of a new coach, look to be strong favorites to return to Columbus in 2023. Independence looks to be an excellent opportunity for any prospective coaches. The Irish know who their leader will be. Hartman has his eyes set on the ultimate goal. “Raygan Hoover and Caitrin Coyle had tremendous years and they are both coming back next year,” he stated. “This year’s team made history and was very special but next year’s team will be poised to not only make states and has a legitimate shot at bringing home a state title.” The third spot looks to be up in the air. Hawken will need to replace two of the best players in their program’s history while teams like Chagrin Falls, Edgewood, Canton South, and Ursuline all would like to make claims to get to Columbus as well.