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McIlvain secures place in Marriotts Ridge history, repeats as Howard County Girls Golfer of Year

Marriotts Ridge's Faith McIlvain repeated as county and district champion this fall on the way to being named Howard County girls golf Player of the Year for a second straight season.
Marriotts Ridge's Faith McIlvain repeated as county and district champion this fall on the way to being named Howard County girls golf Player of the Year for a second straight season. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

With county, region and state titles already on her resume, it would have been easy for Marriotts Ridge’s Faith McIlvain to head into her senior season with the mentality that she had little else to prove.

Individually, her legacy as one of the greatest female golfers in Mustangs’ history was etched in stone.

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But as she sat down before the season to map out her goals for her final fall campaign, there was still one thing left on the to-do list that she felt would make her high school career complete — helping Marriotts Ridge win a girls’ team county championship.

“For all my victories, and all of them have been amazing, winning as a [girls] team was the one thing that was missing. It’s the one thing we hadn’t done since I’ve been here, so when I talked to coach [Mark] Dubbs before the season about our goals, that was right there on top,” McIlvain said. “There’s something special about winning as a team, knowing that you have to rely on one another and push each other to help realize your potential as a group. We had that with the boys every year, so I wanted that with the girls too.”

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With McIlvain leading the charge courtesy of a scoring average of 26.4 points per match — to go along with consistent support from teammates Alana Alexander-Giles, Sydney Bivens and Navya Kunadi — Marriotts Ridge’s girls squad did indeed return to the top this fall.

The Mustangs posted an undefeated record of 11-0, including a clinching tri-match sweep of previously undefeated Centennial and River Hill in late September, to capture the program’s first county title since 2015.

Marriotts Ridge boys and girls golf each earn a tri-match sweep of Centennial and River Hill at the Timbers at Troy to stay unbeaten this fall and secure at least a piece of the county championship.

Sparked by that collective team success, McIlvain went on to repeat as county and district individual champion to open the postseason before closing the year with a top-six finish at the 3A/4A state tournament. For her efforts, she has been named the Howard County girls golf Player of the Year for a second straight season.

“Faith really just continued to grow as both a golfer and a person this year, and she was the perfect leader for this group,” Dubbs said. “Her resume, when you look at what she has accomplished over the last four years, is remarkable. And I have little doubt in my mind that when they get around to putting together a Hall of Fame at Marriotts Ridge in the coming years, she will be one of the first to go in.”

The journey to becoming the county’s top female golfer again this fall had a lot to do with preparation. McIlvain again put in countless hours with swing coach George Bradford during the offseason, then ramped up her summer tournament schedule to better prepare herself for the improved competition she expected to face both in the county and against the larger schools in the state tournament.

Then, once August rolled around, she got a further boost by having teammate Alexander-Giles push her on a daily basis in practice and matches. The Mustangs’ freshman averaged 21 points per match in her debut season and even bested McIlvain on a few occasions.

It was during a tri-match at Fairway Hills in August that the duo’s firepower was on full display, with Alexander-Giles (30 points) and McIlvain (29) combining to shoot 5-under par over nine holes to set the county record for lowest score by any two teammates in a single match.

“I think that’s the match that sticks out to me because we were pushing one another to keep hitting better shots and it was competitive, but it was all really positive,” McIlvain said. “We were feeding off each other and there was so much team spirit. When you see your teammate playing like that, it makes you want to also play better.”

The final Howard County girls golf standings for the 2019 season. (BSMG Graphic)
The final Howard County girls golf standings for the 2019 season. (BSMG Graphic)

McIlvain adds that the team championship wouldn’t have been possible without Bivens and Kunadi, who “improved so much and, in the big matches, their points made a huge difference.” In the sweep of Centennial and River Hill, Bivens scored a career-high 13 points.

McIlvain’s best round of the regular season was 30 points against Howard at the Timbers at Troy, tying her career high.

While last year’s road to a postseason sweep (county, region and 1A/2A state titles) included three straight victories by double-digit strokes, McIlvain had to work much harder for her titles this year.

Marriotts Ridge senior Faith McIlvain and Glenelg junior Caleb Taylor each win respective individual titles by one shot at the Howard County Championship golf tournament on Oct. 15.

She pulled away over the final four holes to post a score of 74 to win the District V Championship by four shots over Howard’s Logan Lurie. Then, a week later at the county tournament, she sank a birdie putt on the final hole to post a winning round of 76 to edge Centennial’s Morgan Taylor by one shot.

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Dubbs said that ability to hit shots under pressure this year showcased her maturity.

“The gap was so great between her and her competition last year that you really didn’t know how she would handle the pressure,” Dubbs said. “But she showed time and time again that she wouldn’t be rattled by the moment, no matter how big the stage was.”

While the season ended without a victory at the state tournament, following championships in 1A/2A the previous two years, McIlvain more than held her own. She posted back-to-back rounds of 74 (148 total) and was tied for the lead heading to the back nine on the final day.

The competition in 3A/4A just turned out to be significantly stiffer than McIlvain had faced in previous seasons against the smaller schools. To put it in perspective, McIlvain’s total this year was 11 shots better than any female in the 1A/2A field.

Following the season, McIlvain made her college plans official by signing to play at Towson University. After narrowing her choices to the Tigers and Siena College in New York, she said location and her comfort with the team ended up being the deciding factors.

“Playing [Division I] golf has been my goal for quite some time, so I’m so excited for this opportunity,” she said. “The coach has been amazing throughout the process and the team was really welcoming. It’s everything I was looking for.”

Also named to the first-team All-County:

The 2019 Howard County girls golf Player of the Year, First- and Second-Team all-county squads. (BSMG Graphic)
The 2019 Howard County girls golf Player of the Year, First- and Second-Team all-county squads. (BSMG Graphic)
Glenelg's Ally Abruscato puts a shot onto the green during a match between Glenelg and Hammond Thursday afternoon at Cattail Creek in Glenwood.
Glenelg's Ally Abruscato puts a shot onto the green during a match between Glenelg and Hammond Thursday afternoon at Cattail Creek in Glenwood. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Ally Abruscato, Glenelg, junior.

Season highlights: As the top player for a Gladiators team that finished 7-4 on the season, Abruscato averaged 17 points per match. She fired a season high of 20 points on two occasions, both at Cattail Creek. She finished alone in fifth place with a round of 93 at the county tournament and then shot 93 again to tie for ninth place at the District V tournament, just missing the cut to qualify for states.

Alana Alexander-Giles, Marriotts Ridge, freshman.

Season highlights: It didn’t take long for Alexander-Giles to announce herself as the top newcomer in the county, scoring a season-high 30 points (3-under par) in her second high school match. She finished the regular season averaging 21 points every time out for an undefeated Mustangs’ team. In the postseason, she finished third at the county tournament with a round of 80 and then was tied for fifth at the District V event with a round of 82. Alexander-Giles then wrapped up her season with a two-day total of 160 (78-82) at the state tournament, finishing 12th in the 3A/4A classification.

River Hill's Adrienne Lesho lines up a putt during Tuesday afternoon's Howard County Golf Championship held at Hobbit's Glen golf course in Columbia.
River Hill's Adrienne Lesho lines up a putt during Tuesday afternoon's Howard County Golf Championship held at Hobbit's Glen golf course in Columbia. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Adrienne Lesho, River Hill, senior.

Season highlights: A first-team All-County selection for a second straight season, Lesho was the undisputed leader for the third-place Hawks (9-2) with a regular-season scoring average of 18 points per match. Her season high was 22 points in a match against Reservoir at Fairway Hills. She placed sixth at the county championship tournament with a 94, was 12th at the District V championship with a 95 and then missed the cut at the 3A/4A state tournament following an opening-round score of 92.

Howard's Logan Lurie hits safely from the rough on the first hole during the opening round for Class 4A/3A golfers at the state championship golf tournament at University of Maryland Golf Course on Wednesday, October 30.
Howard's Logan Lurie hits safely from the rough on the first hole during the opening round for Class 4A/3A golfers at the state championship golf tournament at University of Maryland Golf Course on Wednesday, October 30. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Logan Lurie, Howard, senior.

Season highlights: Lurie left her mark this fall as a first-team All-County performer for the third straight season. She finished fourth during the regular season with a career-best average of 20.7 points per match, including a season high 25 points against Long Reach at the Timbers at Troy. Her round of 83 at the county tournament was good for fourth place, while her 78 at the District V tournament placed her alone in second. Lurie then wrapped up her high school career with a two-day total of 169 (82-87) to place 18th in the 3A/4A classification at the state tournament.

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Centennial's Morgan Taylor hits from a bunker during Tuesday afternoon's Howard County Golf Championship held at Hobbit's Glen golf course in Columbia.
Centennial's Morgan Taylor hits from a bunker during Tuesday afternoon's Howard County Golf Championship held at Hobbit's Glen golf course in Columbia. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Morgan Taylor, Centennial, senior.

Season highlights: Continuing her steady progression toward becoming one of the elite golfers in the area, Taylor improved her performance across the board in her final high school season. Her scoring average of 22 points per match was second-best in the county, with her best regular-season round of 25 points coming in a tri-match against Howard and Atholton at the Timbers at Troy. She shot a career-best postseason round of 77 to finish in second place by one stroke at the county tournament. At the District V tournament, she was alone in fourth place with a round of 80. Taylor then wrapped up her season with a tie for ninth in the 3A/4A classification at the state tournament, posting a two-day total of 156 (78-78).

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Second Team

Clare Bowen, Wilde Lake, sophomore; Erin Jeong, Centennial, freshman; Sussie Park, Centennial, junior; Mehar Sandhu, River Hill, sophomore; Lindsey Sands, Wilde Lake, freshman.

Final Standings

1. Marriotts Ridge (11-0 county); 2. Centennial (10-1); 3. River Hill (9-2); 4. Howard (8-3); 5. Glenelg (7-4); 6. Wilde Lake (6-5); 7. Mt. Hebron (5-6); 8. Hammond (3-8); 9. Atholton (2-8-1); 9. Oakland Mills (2-8-1); 11. Reservoir (2-9); 12. Long Reach (0-11).

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