By JOHN McCALLUM
Cheney High School's boys and girls golf teams swung into action last week with high hopes for the coming season—their first in the 2A classification and the Great Northern League.
Both teams return some experienced players, but are also squads with a couple of holes.
The boys are a relatively young team, at least as far as class standing is concerned. Two of the 12 Blackhawks are seniors, Andy Ifft and Jason Frost, and each have at least one year of solid varsity action.
Head coach Jeff Pike believes both figure to be regular tournament scorers, along with sophomores Nile Popchock and Aaron Byrd. Byrd averaged 87.5 strokes per round last year in four of five Greater Spokane League meets, and led the Cheney boys with a season-best 81 at GSL districts.
When it comes to youth, the Hawks boys have it. Besides Popchock and Byrd, sophomore Brandon Moseley also returns, and are joined by sophomores Cody Sadler, Garrett Denison and Ben McGrew, as well as freshmen Zach Madison, Brian Oens, Ian Tanzer and Sean Thaut.
One of the boys team's weaknesses is its lack of juniors on the squad, leaving the potential for a team next season without any senior leadership, something that could be overcome through maturation this year.
“Our freshmen show a lot of potential for the future,” Pike said. “The team is very eager to learn and I think we will be very competitive this year—more so as the freshmen mature.”
The girls team is somewhat similar. Kami Carbary is the only one of three juniors on last year's team electing to return for her senior season.
She's backed by a talented group of eight juniors, led by Molly Hobbs and Sara Wainwright. Head coach Gerald Morton said Hobbs has emerged as the No. 1 varsity player, bringing a solid, powerful fairways game, but needing a bit of time to recover her “feel” for chipping and putting. Morton said she developed this last year, and expects it to return over time this season.
While not possessing a strong shot off the tee, Wainwright might be the best Cheney has to offer in the short game, Morton said, and definitely has the mental work ethic to succeed.
“There's nobody that puts in more time and effort into the game,” he added.
Also returning from last year's varsity squad are juniors Brittany Jacobsen and Deanna Graham, players Morton believes, along with Wainwright and Hobbs, have legitimate shots at state.
Juniors Natasha Engelbrecht, Stephanie Spisak, Gail Geiger and Cydney Hancock will also see varsity rounds, as will freshmen Desirae Glaze and Lauren March. But like his counterpart Pike with the boys, Morton has a hole on his team—a lack of sophomores.
“We'd love some more freshmen, and some sophomores,” he said.
Even with the weakness, Morton thinks the girls stand a good shot in GNL play.
“I don't want to say too much, but a one or two (GNL finish) isn't out of the question,” he said.
Both Cheney teams did fairly well in their only competition so far, the Clarkston Invitational on March 12. The boys shot a combined 386, with Byrd leading the way for the Hawks with an 86, followed by Ifft (91), Popchock (104) and Frost (105). Team standings were not available.
The girls shot a 481 overall, good enough for 11th out of the 19 teams, finishing just one stroke back of Clarkston and 33 behind Pullman—the top two 2A placers.
Wainwright led the Hawks with a 97, the first time in her career she has shot below 100, Morton said. Hobbs shot a 107, followed by Jacobson (109), Graham (112) and Carbary (128).
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org