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Stars aligned for historic golf season

They're all back. The county's first individual state champion in more than 30 years, the boys and girls individual district champions, and the entire starting line-ups from the boys and girls undefeated county championship squads — back and hungry for more.

Last year, as underclassmen, they put Howard County on the map. Now they're trying to keep it there.

"It's a fun time to be around golf in the county … it really is," Centennial coach Rob Slopek said. "You know that you have to be at your best every match or you're in trouble. Last year was pretty darn competitive and this year is going to be even tougher."

All eyes, at least initially, will be on the reigning Players of the Year.

Wilde Lake senior Tyler Silberberg, the defending boys state champion, and Atholton junior Bryana Nguyen, a two-time state tournament runner-up, are each coming off seasons where they averaged more than 27.7 points a match. Under the county's Stableford scoring system, which awards a point for a double bogey, two for a bogey, three for a par, four for a birdie and so on, the duo posted two of the three best scoring averages in county history.

There will be challengers, though. On the boys' side, all but two of the 13 players that made first- or second-team all-county last fall return to their respective teams. Centennial senior Connor Flach, who shot a 68 to win the 2011 District V title, leads that group.

The boys' team title appears to once again go through Glenelg, which is coming off an 11-0 season and returns its entire starting lineup. Steven Segrist, Matt Forester and Adam Leake were all among the top six county scorers last year.

Wilde Lake, Marriotts Ridge and Centennial should be right there in the mix as well.

For the girls, Marriotts Ridge junior Rachel Lee (24.2-point average) and Oakland Mills junior Samyra Lewis (19.8) have the potential for special individual seasons.

Lee, who finished fourth at last fall's state tournament, also figures to play a predominant role in the team title chase. Her Mustangs' squad has its sights set on the program's third straight undefeated regular season. All four of the team's starters are back.

Atholton, which went 10-1 a season ago, will likely be Marriotts Ridge's toughest challenger.

Regular season matches will have a little added flair this year, as each team is scheduled to play three tri-matches. After numerous rainouts forced teams to experiment with tri-matches last fall, the county chose to insert them officially into the schedule this season.

"I'm excited about it and, to be honest, we wanted to do more (tri-matches) but it didn't work out from a mathematical standpoint," Oakland Mills coach Jon Browne said. "When you factor in weather and course availability, trying to fit 11 matches into such a short season just isn't feasible."

With the season having officially kicked off Aug. 21, here's a look at what to expect from each of the county teams:

Atholton

2011 boys record: 6-5; 2011 girls: 10-1

Top boys: Seniors Garrett Wallace and Steven Wolf; sophomores Chris Robinson and Max Rosenthal.

Top girls: Juniors Bryana Nguyen and Avni Johnson; sophomore Amanda Petersen.

What you need to know: Three of the top four are back from last year for a Raiders' squad that has its sights set on another top half finish. Wallace led the team as a junior with a 20.1 scoring average, followed by Robinson (17.1) and Wolf (16.0). Keep an eye on Rosenthal, who coach Scott Robinson says is the most improved player on the team.

Nguyen shattered the girls' regular season scoring mark last season (27.7 points a match) and, after winning county and district titles as a sophomore, has her eyes on a state title this fall. A team title is also one of her goals and she'll have help in that department. Petersen showed tremendous improvement during her first year and has double-digit scoring potential. Johnson is a former soccer player in her first year with the team.

Centennial

2011 boys: 8-3; 2011 girls: 7-4

Top boys: Senior Connor Flach; juniors Mike Humphrey, Connor McAnallen and Sahil Mehta; sophomore Matt McShane.

Top girls: Junior Maggie Ma; sophomore Caitlin Wojanowski; freshman Alice Kuan.

What you need to know: Flach enters the season hunting for his first county crown and certainly has the pedigree to do it. He was second last year in the county with a 26.2 scoring average, won the district title and was among the top 10 boys at states. He will be tasked with guiding an Eagles team that improved by five wins last season. The team's starting line-up behind Flach all return, with Humphrey (20.3 points per match) and McShane (19.8) boasting potential for breakout years.

The girls graduated two all-county performers in Alex McShane and Michelle Kuan, who combined for roughly 35 points a match last year. That means it's likely a rebuilding year for an Eagles squad that has only three girls out. Alice Kuan, Michelle's younger sister, and Wojanowski are both capable of reaching double digits consistently. Ma is a first-time golfer.

Glenelg

2011 boys: 11-0; 2011 girls: 4-7

Top boys: Seniors Matt Forester, Adam Leake and Greg Leake; sophomore Steven Segrist.

Top girls: Junior Ashley Frost and sophomore Maddie Davis.

What you need to know: The stars are back for a Gladiator team that cruised through the regular season to a county title last fall when the Leake brothers, Forester and Segrist all averaged more than 22 points a match. And, if that wasn't enough, the team has added to the mix freshman Young Lee, who put up 24 points in the opening match of the year. There's definitely a "target" on the team's back according to coach Chris Beil, but he also says his experienced group should be ready for the challenge. "Big picture, I feel my team can win states this year," Beil said.

The girls could be in for a strong year as well, with Frost leading the way on a rather young team that is relatively new to the game. Davis is one of the newcomers and has already shown the ability to reach double digits through the early matches.

Hammond

2011 boys: 2-9; 2011 girls: 1-10

Top boys: Seniors Austin Kopnitsky and Will Winder; sophomore Logan Mitchell.

Top girls: Juniors Emily Creighton, Betsy Frekot, Amber Ginsburg and Emily Martin.

What you need to know: Kopnitsky has been the program's top male golfer three years running and is the unquestioned leader after averaging 15 points a match last season. He could legitimately push his average up to around 20 this fall. Support comes from Mitchell, who played in every match last season, and Winder, who is new to the team.

The girls will field a full four-player team for the first time in program history. Creighton is the only returner in the group, finishing second on the team in scoring a year ago. Behind her, the group is extremely inexperienced but should develop as the season goes on.

Howard

2011 boys: 6-5; 2011 girls: 6-4-1

Top boys: Senior Kevin Reid; juniors Max Balter, Sean Crawford and Steven Park.

Top girl: Senior Amanda Song.

What you need to know: The Lions lost a couple of key contributors in Corey Andrews and Chris Song, but the holdovers should be able to prevent too much of a falloff. Park was second on the team last year with an 18.8-point average and the group of Reid, Balter and Crawford are all vastly improved. Reid, for example, put up a career-best 24 points in the first match of the season. The key now, according to coach Curtis Galbreath, is consistency.

Song is the only returner for a girls team that has just three players, two of which are brand new to the game of golf. The good news is that Song is coming off a junior season where she averaged 10.7 points a match.

Long Reach

2011 boys: 0-11; 2011 girls: 7-4

Top boys: Juniors Trevor Appler and Joe Grabowski; sophomores Will Bartolotta and Evan Spotte-Smith.

Top girls: Seniors Abigail Caspar and Courtney Sample; freshman Julie Reboullet.

What you need to know: The boys are still in the building process, focusing more on constant improvement and building up match experience. It's a group that doesn't feature a senior among its top four. Coach Bob Hawthorne expects his squad to "improve rapidly as the season progresses."

The girls lost a first-team all-county star in Ellisa Lee, who averaged 19.2 points a match and made states last year. The two behind her on last year's team, though, are back. Sample (9.7 average last year) and Caspar (7.3) have assumed a leadership role and have the talent to keep the Lightning in the top half of the league.

Marriotts Ridge

2011 boys: 7-4; 2011 girls: 11-0

Top boys: Seniors Joe Dorsch and Daniel Park; junior Michael Dorsch; sophomore Michael Walker; freshman Bennett Buch.

Top girls: Juniors Ariel Biegel, Marissa Davey, Michelle Kim and Rachel Lee.

What you need to know: The Mustangs boys program doesn't rebuild, it reloads. Even after losing its top two scorers from last fall, Chris Yoo and Joey Park, all signs point to Marriotts Ridge being right back in the hunt this season. The Dorsch brothers are going to be asked to lead and the experience of both being on last year's state runner-up team will undoubtedly help. Behind them, Walker is much improved, Park has match experience and Buch has a load of potential.

The girls have the look of a juggernaut, having gone a combined 22-0 the last two years and returning everyone. Lee is one of the state's best females and, by all accounts, could very well improve on last year's match average of 24.2. Davey and Biegel have made positive strides as well, opening up the possibility of pushing their averages up to around 20. In the season's first match, they put up 70 points.

Mt. Hebron

2011 boys: 5-6; 2011 girls: 2-9

Top boys: Seniors David Marino, James Shearman and Gene Yoo; sophomore Patrick Hardy.

Top girls: Junior Hayley Baker and freshman Josephine Jung.

What you need to know: The Vikings bring back some key pieces and have the talent to be competitive on a consistent basis. Marino, now a three-year starter, is looking like the team's top guy. He had a team- leading 17.6 average last year. Yoo and Shearman, meanwhile, played in half the team's matches last fall. Hardy has also improved tremendously.

Baker is well seasoned and averaged 10.5 points a match as a sophomore on her way to being named second team all-county. She'll lead a girls team that has six members. Jung is only a freshman, but should be an immediate contributor and combine with Baker to create a strong one-two punch.

Oakland Mills

2011 boys: 1-10; 2011 girls: 5-5-1

Top boys: Juniors Jackson Bailey and Thomas Clyde; freshman Colin Steplowski.

Top girl: Junior Samyra Lewis.

What you need to know: Numbers are still an issue for the Scorpions, which have just enough to field a full boys team to go along with only one girl. For the boys, Bailey and Clyde are both holdovers from a season ago. Bailey, who also plays singles on the tennis team, should be the team leader after averaging a little over 11 points a season ago.

Although Lewis is the only girl for Oakland Mills, she's an awfully good one to have. The junior shot 20 points or better eight times last fall and early indications are that she has improved by several shots in the off season. Coach Jon Browne says added distance off the tee and improved overall confidence could add up to a big year.

Reservoir

2011 boys: 4-7; 2011 girls: 3-8

Top boys: Senior Brent Sabot; juniors Trent Teodori and Matt Dorn; sophomore Gary Cidre.

Top girls: Seniors Tabbi Gaverth and Tina Howard.

What you need to know: Reservoir lost its top scorer Pat Kendall (18.0 average) and another key contributor in Curtis Reybold. That leaves Sabot (16.0) as the only returner that averaged more than 12 points a match. Depth is in the team's favor, though, with a handful of talented golfers in the wings. In addition to returners Teodori, Dorn and Cidre, the Gators also have promising guys like Langston Banks and Josh Bowley on the back end of the rotation.

Gaverth and Howard played in every match for the girls last year and both appear to have improved. They'll get help from Eden Muir and Puja Trivedi, who each played in at least two matches a year ago. Freshman Erica Caporaletti is a newcomer to keep an eye on.

River Hill

2011 boys: 6-5; 2011 girls: 9-2

Top boys: Senior Brandon McFarlane and junior Brett Gold.

Top girls: Senior Kendra Rosnik and sophomore Lexie Hayward.

What you need to know: There's been a significant amount of turnover for the boys team, which lost four seniors that averaged at least 17 points. Gold has the potential to be the one to build around, coming off a sophomore year where he averaged 18.1 points a match. The boys team has been a top half team consistently since 2005, so expect the new faces to be competitive at the very least.

The girls are in a similar position to the boys, trying to make up for losing two players that averaged 12 points or more. Rosnik, a second-team all-county performer last year, should provide consistency at the top in their absence. She averaged 11.18 points and was in double figures in all but two matches last year. Of the other four girls on the team, three are returners.

Wilde Lake

2011 boys: 10-1; 2011 girls: 0-11

Top boys: Seniors Rafey Iqbal, Tyler Silberberg and David Yancich; junior Joe Boccher.

Top girl: Junior Mikala Teachman.

What you need to know: The boys fell one match short of last year's regular season county title and, with everyone back, making amends is definitely among the primary focuses. Silberberg is as good as it gets on a county and state level. He came within a couple points of the all-time county scoring mark last year. Yancich, Iqbal and Boccher all have loads of experience, but the real wild card may be Nick Matthews. The senior already has a 24-point day under his belt this season.

This has the makings of a banner year for the girls, as returner Mikala Teachman (7.2 points a match last season) has some help. Fielding a complete team, newcomers Tyler Teachman and Zaha Iqbal give the Wildecats three girls now that are capable of reaching double digits. Already this season the team has earned the program's first win and broken the 30-point barrier.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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