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.
At the county championship tournament, she finished in a tie for eighth with 25 points and then followed that up with a 14th place finish in the girls individual competition at the District V Championship.
Marissa Davey, Marriotts Ridge. Consistently the second-best golfer for the Mustangs, Davey was a major reason the team was once again one of the county's top squads. She saw her scoring average dip slightly from her sophomore year, but her 15.8 points a match were still fifth best in the county. Among the highlights was 21 points in a tri-match against Hammond and Howard.
Her best showing in the postseason came at the county championship, where she shot a career-best 22 points on the front nine on the way to a final total of 37 and a tie for fourth. She qualified for states with a 93 at districts, then closed her season by finishing 19th among the females at the state championships (180 total).
Avni Johnson, Atholton. A first-year player for the Raiders, Johnson provided the depth Atholton needed to get over the hump and win the program's first county championship and finish the season undefeated at 11-0. During the regular season she was the model of consistency, shooting between 12 and 15 points in all eight matches on her way to a final average of 13.9.
She finished alone in sixth at the county championship tournament with a round of 30 points, then followed that up with a round of 92 at the District V Championship to finish ninth overall among the girls individuals.
Rachel Lee, Marriotts Ridge. Already a standout, as evidenced by two straight first-team selections coming into this fall, Lee was even better this year as a junior. The top player for the second-place Mustangs (10-1) during the regular season, she upped her scoring average to 24.6 points a match. Lee shot 23 points or more every time out, including a season-high 27 points on two different occasions.
She was runner-up at the county championship tournament with a total of 44 points, but the real breakthrough was at Districts. Shooting a three-over-par round of 73, Lee edged Atholton's Bryana Nguyen by one shot for the title.
She then finished fourth at states with a total of 148, which was 13 shots better than her sophomore year.
Samyra Lewis, Oakland Mills. Lewis took the jump from being a good golfer to an elite one this season as a junior. She showcased improvement in all areas, opening the fall with 26 points against Marriotts Ridge at Fairway Hills and she never slowed down. After averaging 19.8 points a match as a sophomore, Lewis never scored less than 19 points this year. Her season high was 27 points in a tri-match at Willow Springs.
In the postseason, she was third at the county championship with a round of 43 points (four better than 2011), then followed that up with an 82 at districts to place fifth. She took home seventh at the state tournament, one spot better than the previous year, but her two-day total of 161 showcased a 12-shot improvement.
Amanda Peterson, Atholton. No first-team member improved more than Peterson this fall for the undefeated Raiders. After averaging just 7.9 points a match as a freshman, she put up an impressive 19.0 average this season as a sophomore to rank fourth among county golfers. She put up 18 points or better in every match but one, going for a career-high 25 in a tri-match against Glenelg and Mt. Hebron.
At the county championship tournament, she was actually leading the way after the front nine before ending up tied for fourth with 37 points. She followed that up by firing a 90 at districts to finish alone in seventh place.