There seems to be no letup for the girls golf teams at Ledford and Salisbury.
Both schools will be trying to make it four straight state championships this month despite suffering key graduation losses from the three-peat teams of 2013.
Two of Ledford’s big three from last year’s 3A championship are now playing college golf, leaving Julia Carroll as the team’s new senior leader. A key freshman has arrived to help fill the void. The Panthers will have to be at their best this time around as several teams have shown state championship potential in conference play.
Salisbury had three girls finish in the top six last year in the 2A/1A states and one of those three graduated. But there are apparently few challengers rising up in the state’s smallest division.
Salisbury has one of the top 1-2 combinations in the state in any classification with senior Isabella Rusher and junior Grace Yatawara.
Rusher, who won individual state titles in her freshman and sophomore years and finished as the runner-up last year, is seeking to cap her high-school career in style.
Yatawara finished third as a freshman and fifth last year as a sophomore and had some big wins over the summer on the junior circuit.
Replacing four-year starter Madeline Hoskins, who finished sixth in the state last year, has been tough. The third Hornet score has come from either Caroline Parrott or Shelby Holden, both much improved over last season.
Salisbury has not only won, they’ve dominated the states the last three years, winning by 33 shots in 2011, 60 in 2012, and 57 in 2013.
West Davidson, which plays out of Salisbury’s own Central Carolina Conference, has some state tournament experience with Olivia Mast and Rachel Mast while Olivia Sharpe gives the Dragons three players capable of shooting in the low 40s.
Croatan, which plays out of the East Regional, finished second in the state last year and still has its number one player in LeAnn Domitrovits, who was fourth individually last year.
East Surry’s Madison Moore, who finished ninth last year, should also be in contention for the individual title.
Losing Alexis Kershaw and Meghan Holbrooks from last year’s team left Ledford with some big shoes to fill.
Julia Carroll is the key holdover and Jordan Young, a junior, also is state tournament tested. Freshman Hailey Barajas has stepped right in and has posted under-par scores several times.
Cardinal Gibbons of Raleigh figures to be a strong contender. The Crusaders finished fourth a year ago and have returning seniors Caroline O’Neil and Ellen Smith. Three talented freshmen have boosted the team’s chances.
Ledford’s chief competition in the Mid-Piedmont Conference has been Southwestern Randolph. Alecia Marion is one of the top players in the conference and she’s gotten support from Jordan McDuffie and Sarah Coltrane.
One of the state’s tightest conference battles has been in the Mid-State where Northern Guilford, which was runner-up to Ledford in the state last fall, and Rockingham County have been posting some great numbers.
The Nighthawks owned a 24-shot lead after the first three nine-hole rounds but Rockingham won the next five matches and carried a 12-shot margin into the final 27 holes of the campaign. Northern has gone as low as 113 and Rockingham 118.
The Cougars have come from nowhere to contender this season due to the arrival of three freshmen. Hailey Joy and Olivia John arrived with considerable junior tour experience and Evin Flinchum has made rapid progress after just starting to play earlier this year. Junior Caroline Cummings has also figured into the scoring for Rockingham several times.
Northern lost two of its four state tourney participants last year but junior Kendall Dobbins has taken over the leadership role. She’s posted three under-par rounds while building the individual lead in the conference. Madison Cobb also returns from the state tournament team and Alexis Lewis has been steady at No. 3.
Cardinal Gibbons, Ledford, Northern Guilford and Rockingham and are all in the Central Regional so a state tournament preview will probably be seen on Oct. 20 at Corbin Hills GC in Salisbury.
Chapel Hill, which boasts the state’s top ranked player in freshman Gina Kim, is also in the Central Regional but the Wildcats do not field a team.
The East Regional teams can’t be overlooked with defending state individual champion Siranon Shoomee of Lee County the headliner. Lee County didn’t have a team in the states last year but Shoomee has some help this time around.
Fayetteville Terry Sanford and Union Pines were fifth and sixth in the state in 2013 and both teams figure to make some noise again this fall. Abby Parsons finished third in the state as a Union Pines sophomore last year.
Charlotte Ardrey Kell has won the last two NCHSAA 4A state titles to go along with the one it won in 2010 and should be prime contenders once again.
Junior Alexis Whitney and senior Megan Cullip are the top returning players for Ardrey Kell, which lost its top returning player, Moon Cheong – the 4A West Regional medalist and the state runner-up last season – who transferred to Charlotte Latin.
Green Hope finished second in the state championship last year – 12 shots behind Ardrey Kell – and is led by Meghan Symonds, who tied Cheong as the state runner-up last season.
The individual championship is up for grabs this year, as defending champion Emilia Migliaccio isn’t playing high-school golf this season.
Migliaccio won the 4A title as a freshman last season for Raleigh Athens Drive, but has elected to concentrate on junior tournaments this year. She may have opened the door for one of her schoolmates to take her crown. Jennifer Chang is one of the top freshmen in the state.
Catherine Ashworth, a senior at Fuquay-Varina who has committed to play at East Carolina, should also be among the names in contention.
Janie Thomas of R.J. Reynolds has had a great season, winning several conference matches in the Central Piedmont 4-A and could also be a factor. Thomas missed most of last season because of a torn ligament in her foot, but has been posting nine-hole scores all season in the 30s during her team matches. Reagan, Reynolds and North Davidson all have a chance for a conference title.
Joliana Elias, a senior at Jamestown Ragsdale, could also be in the mix. Elias is a three-time selection to the Piedmont-Triad 4-A all-conference team and was co-medalist in her Regional last year.
With Brooke Fields and Maddison Isaacson rounding out its top three, Ragsdale should be in the mix in Regional play to advance to state championships.
Greensboro Page could find itself back in contention this year after a ninth-place finish in the team standings last year.
The Pirates have had steady performances this season from C.C. Ganim and MacLean Shepherd.