Comets win GMC, turn attention to State tournament
Matthew Smith | Staff Writer
They’re back, and with talented underclassmen, they don’t plan on going anywhere.
The Mason girls golf team recently won their first Greater Miami Conference (GMC) title since the 2015-2016 season. They are on their way to state, and have four of their top five golfers returning next season.
From left: Mason golfers Ally Madden, Catherine Zhang, and Julanna Zhang display their GMC trophies.
In the two day GMC championship, they battled the defending champion, Lakota East, and came away with a two-stroke victory. With three of their golfers finishing with the top four average scores in the conference, this was not a surprise to the team. Senior Julanna Zhang came into the season and tournament expecting to win.
“We’ve had very clear goals. We have wanted to win GMC’s since last season,” Zhang said. “We came up short last year, but were very confident we could win them this year.”
The team does not plan to stop at a GMC championship, however. Zhang said the team has had its eyes on a state tournament run.
“We want to get past sectionals, and then we want to get to state,” Zhang said. “We know we can. Our ultimate goal is to make it to state.”
Setting goals alone, however, would not win the team a title. Coach Chad Layton said he knows how hard the team worked to make it this far.
“It’s a long season; there’s many hours of work on the course and at the range,” Layton said. “All summer long the girls prepared themselves, and leading into the season, they were set on winning the GMC title.”
Working hard was not the only thing the girls had to do this season; they also needed to develop their young talent. Sophomore Catherine Zhang, who led the GMC with a 38.5 nine hole average, said the team improvement over the year was critical, and that their younger players stepped up in a big way.
“Our players have certainly improved since last year,” Zhang said. “We have a lot of new players who have been very good. That has allowed us to win GMC’s and make state.”
Although being young was an important factor for the team, freshman Ally Madden felt it was tough to adjust to the varsity atmosphere at first, but worked through it and bonded with the team. Madden said she believed that she could be a key contributor to the team.
“I was doubting at first that I would be on varsity,” Madden said. “I worked hard though in the summer, and I knew if I tried, and gave my full effort it would be a possibility to play varsity. I knew we had a strong team, and as long as I kept my scores consistent, I could help us this season.”
As a senior leader, Julanna Zhang knew that it was critical for the team to make sure everyone was comfortable with each other. Zhang made sure the team was constantly bonding with each other, which she said helped form long-lasting friendships.
“We had a lot of team bonding,” Zhang said. “[The players] organized team practices together and we did activities to get our team to grow closer together. As a freshman, it was difficult for me to get close to the seniors. It was a frustration for other freshman and sophomores as well. As a senior this year, I decided that I would really try to get to know the freshman and sophomores, and I’ve formed very close friendships because of that.”
Senior golfer Julanna Zhang, a four year member of the varsity golf team helped lead the Comets to a 2018 GMC Championship.
The future looks bright for the Comets with several players returning. Coach Chad Layton believes if the team stays focused on meeting expectations, they will continue to achieve great things.
“The potential for next year is limitless,” Layton said. “It’s not only the talent, but the work ethic and how hard the girls push each other. If we can continue that next year, the potential is endless.”
As the season comes to an end, some players are already thinking ahead to next year. Madden said another state run in 2019 is very possible with all the youth and talent that the team will possess.
“I think we can definitely go to state next year,” Madden said. “Right now, we have a very young team, and even with the loss of the seniors, we will continue to improve and be strong enough to make it to state.”
Even though the team believes they have a bright future and a lot to look forward to, it will not be easy to live up to the hype. Catherine Zhang said that next year there will be a lot of pressure on the team to repeat their success from this season.
“I think there is some pressure on us for next year,” Zhang said. “Last year East won the GMC, so this year we really wanted to beat them. This year we beat them, so I think East will want to beat us next year. Our team will continue to improve, though, and I think we can repeat as GMC champs and maybe go to state. I think we will be good enough.”
Photos by Tanner Pearson.