By STEVE WILLIAMS
When Salisbury High’s golf team begins post-season play with the Central Regional on Oct. 24, there will be strange look to the field.
The Hornets no longer will see 3-A schools standing in their way.
The NCHSAA divided the state’s smaller schools (2-A and 1-A) into their own championship this season for the first time. In previous years, there was a 4-A championship and a combined tournament for the rest of schools in the state. Now there are separate events for 4-A, 3-A and 2-A/1-A.
“For four years there we were the best 2-A school in the state but we got no recognition for it because we were playing 3-A competition,” Salisbury coach Dale Snyder said.
West Henderson won the last two years with Salisbury finishing second each time. The year before that, Salisbury placed sixth with five 3-A schools ranking ahead of them.
Salisbury, a perennial power in girls golf, won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 while facing 3-A schools, but a rule change the following year put the smaller schools at a disadvantage.
“We won when we counted two scores,” Snyder said. “When they went to three scores, we didn’t have the depth to compete with the 3-A schools.”
Salisbury will be the host for the regional at The Warrior Golf Course but Snyder doesn’t know what to expect.
“I don’t even know who’s out there,” he said, noting that there’s no 2-A conference for the Hornets to compete in. “In our matches, we play up. We don’t play a lot of 1-A and 2-A competition throughout the year.”
There are 21 schools listed on the potential entry list for the regional. Elkin, led by sophomore Mary Frances-Hall, has a good team and East Davidson has standout Katie Nance.
Salisbury lost Madison Kennedy (now at Catawba) from last year’s line-up but freshman Isabella Rusher has stepped up to fill the void and has been the team’s leading scorer. The Hornets also have three players back from last year’s team – senior Lily Yatawara, junior Brooke Smith and sophomore Madeline Hoskins.
The availability of Hoskins, who also plays tennis, is a potential problem. She missed one of the state tournament rounds a year ago because of tennis duals.
“We really want to get all four of our girls qualified for states,” Snyder said. “That’s our goal right now and we’ve got the talent to compete and do well. But the thing about regionals is it’s a one-day crap shoot.”
The other 2-A regionals are set for Bear Trail Golf Club in Jacksonville and Woodbridge Golf Club in Kings Mountain.
Pittsboro Northwood, with seniors Emily Brooks and Maggie Denny heading a team that finished fourth in the state in 2010, is one of the favorites in the East.
Several Triad teams have emerged as strong contenders for the state championship now that West Henderson no longer has Kayla Sciupider around. Sciupider, now at Rollins College, rolled to back-to-back individual titles and West Henderson followed her lead to team titles.
And last year’s number two team, Salisbury, is now 2-A.
That could leave an opening for teams like Northern Guilford (third in the state last year), Western Alamance or Ledford.
Northern and Western have waged a back-and-forth battle all fall in the Mid-State 3-A Conference. The Nighthawks have gotten standout play from Taylor Penzer and Elizabeth Ewing while the Warriors feature Heather Dockrill and Taylor Ross.
Ledford has arrived on the scene with a deep line-up led by sophomore Alexis Kershaw. The Panthers have also gotten regular contributions from Julia Carroll, Morgan Brock and Megan Holbrooks.
All three teams will be competing in the Central Regional at Meadowlands Golf Course near Winston-Salem. The other regionals are scheduled for Asheville Municipal and Birchwood GC in Nashville.
Pfafftown Reagan, which finished third in the state a year ago, has continued to claim conference victories this fall behind the play of juniors Hannah Craver and Chloe Sizemore and senior Savannah Langston. But the Raiders’ hopes to contend for the state title will depend on the return of sophomore Victoria Allred.
Allred has missed most of the season because of an injury but could be back in time for the West Regional on Oct. 25 at Pine Island Country Club in Charlotte.
Defending state champ Audrey Kell will again be a huge factor despite the loss of Allison Emrey, now at Wake Forest.
While the Winston-Salem schools go west for regionals, the Guilford County schools are playing in the Central Regional at Pinehurst No. 8 on Oct. 24.
Ragsdale, led by Lily Crane and Savanna Mackie, has posted some solid scores this fall as has Northwest Guilford. The Vikings feature Emma Lea, Amanda Wyrick and Sarah Choi.
Greensboro Page – with sisters Erica and Anna Gallerani – could also be a factor in regionals and states.
The Raleigh area schools have an excellent contingent with Athens Drive, Green Hope, Apex and Middle Creek.
Athens Drive, led by Sarah Bae, finished second to Audrey Kell in 2010. All those teams will match strokes in the East Regional at Duke University Golf Course on Oct. 24.