Atholton junior Bryana Nguyen came into the fall season with some unfinished business.
A two-time runner-up at the state championship tournament, Nguyen made it very clear from day one that her sights were set on returning to the University of Maryland golf course and getting over that proverbial hump.
So as the ball dropped on the final hole of this year's event, securing her a one-stroke victory and that first title, Nguyen was definitely emotional.
"That was the main goal all year … (defending champion) Elyse (Smidinger) was gone and everyone was expecting for this to be my year to win," Nguyen said. "I wouldn't call it pressure, but I knew I could do it and that I didn't want to go through finishing second again.
"To be able to finally win, especially being as close as it was, meant a lot."
Already an individual county and district champion who had set the county record for scoring average during her first two years of high school, Nguyen figured this year's state championship was the next logical step for her. But, as her coach, Scott Robinson, points out, she never appeared burdened by the continually growing expectations.
"Nothing fazes Bryana; that's what makes her such a great athlete," Robinson said. "She's so in control of her emotions that she doesn't get rattled no matter what the situation is and a lot of that comes from experience."
Even though Nguyen, the girls Golfer of the Year for the third straight time, saw her regular-season scoring average drop by nearly a full point this fall, she still produced an outstanding eight-match campaign. Her 26.8-point average was more than two points better than the next-best county golfer and she shot 26 or better in every match but one. She twice put up two-under-par rounds of 29 points.
Just as important as the scoring title was Nguyen's leadership at the top of Atholton's rotation. She helped the Raiders roll to the program's first county championship and undefeated season (11-0).
"She raises the bar for the rest of the girls, not just with her play but also her work ethic," Robinson said. "They see how hard she works and they want to follow her example."
While breaking through at states may have been her proudest moment of the fall, Nguyen says winning as a team was a close second.
"The team aspect is really important to me because it's been amazing to see how far we've come since I was a freshman," Nguyen said. "Everyone has improved so much and we've become really close with one another."
The postseason started with a little adversity at the District V Championships, as Nguyen ended up shooting a 74 and falling a shot short of Marriotts Ridge's Rachel Lee for the title. The following week, however, she bounced right back with a five-stroke victory over Lee at the county championship.
"I tried not to let districts get to me, but I knew I needed to pick up my game," said Nguyen. "Rachel has improved to become a great player. I had to refocus to beat her at counties."
Using the momentum from the county championship, Nguyen came out at the state championships and crossed the final item off her to-do list. She opened the tournament with a two-over-par round of 73 to put herself in a tie for first and then closed with an even-par 71 to clinch the title by one shot.
Since the season ended, Nguyen has announced her decision to play for the University of North Carolina following her senior year of high school. The verbal commitment to the Tar Heels, after considering several high-profile colleges around the country, will take some of the pressure off during what promises to be another rigorous schedule next spring and summer.
As for high school, Nguyen has a few things left she still would like to accomplish next fall.
"There's still my record for low score in a (regular season) match that I'd like to beat, but the big thing is trying to win everything in one year," she said. "I've won counties, districts and now states, but not all three in a row."
Named to the all-county first team are:
Hayley Baker, Mt. Hebron. A second-team selection last season, Baker improved her regular-season scoring average by almost five points this fall and served as the top player for a Vikings' team that finished 7-3-1. She scored in double digits in all eight matches she played, including going for a career-high 22 points in a victory over Reservoir.