By STEVE WILLIAMS
There was no surprise last year when Ledford and Salisbury won their second consecutive state championships. And no one will be surprised if those two schools make it three in a row this fall.
Ledford, competing in the 3-A class, lost one of its fantastic foursome to graduation but the beat has gone on this fall for the Panthers behind the play of seniors Alexis Kershaw and Megan Holbrooks and junior Julia Carroll.
Salisbury, the dominant team in 1-A/2-A, also has a trio of returning standouts in senior Madeline Hoskins, junior Isabella Rusher and sophomore Grace Yatawara. Rusher is the two-time individual state champion.
3-A: Ledford’s trio has taken turns leading the way. Carroll shot 35 in a 116-154 win over North Davidson, Holbrooks was medalist in a 118 team effort at Pinewood Country Club with a 38 and Kershaw posted a 37 when the Panthers shot 121 and beat Greensboro Grimsley at Starmount Forest.
Jordan Young, Kelsey Leach and Mary Davis have given the Panthers some additional depth this season.
West Henderson, which finished 12 shots off Ledford’s pace last year, has most of its firepower returning to make a run at this year’s title.
Northern Guilford, the runner-up in 2011 and seventh-place finisher a year ago, could also be a factor. The Nighthawks made the Mid-State 3-A Conference a runaway from the outset behind the play of seniors Alex Berg and Bryce Huntoon, junior Madison Cobb and sophomore Kendall Dobbins.
1-A/2-A: Salisbury won last year’s 1-A/2-A state title by 60 shots, improving on the 2011 margin of 33.
Coach Dale Snyder had his Salisbury team rolling along undefeated through September and actually won a match with both Rusher and Hoskins absent. That showed that sophomores Caroline Parrott and Shelby Holden could contribute when called upon.
If the Hornets falter at all, teams like Elkin or South Stokes could be ready to step up.
Elkin has a pair of super seniors in Mary Frances Hall (fourth in state last year) and Annika Winebarger (14th) back for one more shot but the Elks will need a third score from either Kaley Corneilison or Palmer Duncan.
South Stokes has posted good scores from a threesome of veterans Meagan Mabe and Nicole Rogers and Kelli Mounce, who is playing golf for the first season.
4-A: Two-time state champ Charlotte Ardrey Kell is rebuilding after its top two players moved on to collegiate golf. But the young players have come on strong, making the Knights a contender again. They showed their potential by winning the Carolinas Golf Association’s N.C. Challenge in September.
Pinecrest, the runner-up a year ago, features Gabby Weiss, who has posted rounds of 64 and 65 this fall.
In the Triad, Pfafftown Reagan graduated two from its state tournament cast that finished fourth but the Raiders still have senior Victoria Allred, who won the state individual title as a sophomore and finished 10th last fall. Cassie Paulin and Sheridan Lee usually provide the other scores for Reagan.
Greensboro Page has posted some low scores this fall with C.C. Ganim, Makenzie Brown and Ellis Hunter playing lead roles.
Individuals to watch include Joliana Elias of Ragsdale, Sarah Phelan of Southwest Guilford and Elise Wright of Northwest Guilford.
NCISAA: Cecily Overbey played on the boys golf team at Wesleyan Christian Academy through her sophomore year and was one of the Trojans’ best players. Now, as a senior playing girls golf for the first time, she’s one of the favorites for the state independent school individual school championship.
Overbey has been the leader for Wesleyan this fall. She has posted a number of great scores, including a 2-under-par 34 at Starmount in a conference match with Forsyth Country Day and Greensboro Day.
She will be joined at the third edition of the NCISAA state girls tournament – an 18-hole shootout at Pine Needles in Southern Pines on Oct. 21 – by teammates Erica Hamilton and Erika Peck.
Forsyth County Day also figures to have a team there. The Furies’ line-up features K.J. Vaughn, Lilly Sessions and Mary Slade White.
Cannon School of Concord won the two previous state titles and is a strong favorite to three-peat. Senior Jessica Kittelberger of Ravenscroft is the defending individual champ. She along with junior Anna Redding and senior Kate Collom of Cannon School are individual favorites along with Overbey.