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Similar story, different gender

Posted: March 20, 2008 2:59 a.m.
Updated: May 21, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
It's a story reminiscent of the fall.

A team led by freshmen that everybody else is talking about.

Same story, one less freshman and different school.

In the fall, Hart girls golf was unanimously predicted to be the best team in the Foothill League because of the abilities of three freshmen.

Hart went on to win the league title easily.

The West Ranch boys hope it's an omen.

With less standout golfers in the league allowing for more parity, the Wildcats' depth leads many to believe that they will be the top team from the area with Valencia also competing for the top spot.

"West Ranch, if the van gets lost, we'll beat West Ranch and the same with Valencia," said Golden Valley head coach Tony Moskal - ever a realist.

Moskal is not down on his team, by any means, saying he wouldn't trade them for any other squad, but realizes the strengths of West Ranch and Valencia.

West Ranch, though, might be the most impressive team coming in because it returns almost everybody.

But the two freshmen are playing at the top - West Ranch head coach Jeff Holen's son, J.J., and Jay Lim.

Both are capable of shooting par or better.

"I've been trying to recruit J.J. Holen since he was 10. I've got an extra bedroom," said Valencia head coach Rusty Swisher with sarcasm.

A key returner for the Wildcats is Ryan Weltig, who recently shot a 69.

West Ranch could even get better in week three of Foothill League play if defending Newhall Land Cup champion Collin Wheeler, personal issue, returns.

As for Valencia, the Vikings return one of the top golfers of the past two years in now-junior Max Homa.

Homa is capable of shooting below 70 every time he goes out on the course.

"Max is the most tenacious golf competitor that I've had on my team," Swisher said. "He expects to win every time out."

Junior Kevin Fitzgerald, Swisher said, also has an ability to shoot low consistently.

His others could determine the team's ultimate finish.

Like Valencia, Hart has one of the top golfers of the past two years. This year, though, he steps in as the Foothill League Most Valuable Player favorite.

"I think Johnny MacArthur will be the MVP this year," said Hart head coach Pete Calzia.

Calzia's statement isn't a surprise.

MacArthur is one of the most driven athletes in the valley and will be playing golf at Pepperdine next year.

What could hold him back are injuries suffered from playing football and soccer in the fall and winter.

Calzia said he's about 90 percent.

Behind MacArthur, though, Hart is inexperienced.

The top two players from Hart's junior varsity league championship from a year ago - Tanner Diaz and Austin Hunter - have arrived and will be leaned on.

Calzia said he wouldn't count his team out of the league championship mix.

After all, the Indians are the defending Foothill champs.

The competition for the third and final playoff spot from the Foothill could come down to Hart and Saugus.

Though the Centurions lost arguably the greatest golfer in its history to graduation, Nick Delio, and a solid No. 2 in Justin Renaux, the Centurions have possibly four golfers who can shoot mid-70s at a given match.

Head coach David Stradling said the issue is getting all four to do that together.

Stradling's son Daniel, a senior, is the most experienced of the bunch.

"If Johnny MacArthur's hurt and we play really well, we might have a chance," Stradling said. "If he's healthy, that might tip it the other way."

Canyon head coach Dave Harris said his team might not contend for a playoff spot, though its much improved.

The Cowboys top golfer from a season ago Hunter Bench is now a junior.

The top two other golfers are young - junior Paco Franco and sophomore Justin Golden.

"I think we're just trying to get our scores down a bit," Harris said. "I'd like to see us shoot 400. Average 80 for five guys - that's a goal for the year."

Moskal's squad is also looking to make measurable improvements.

Junior Austin Wolitarsky has the ability to shoot in the 70s, Robert Pile can go low 80s, and sophomore Sean Weiss has a year of varsity experience under his belt.

Experience just might not win out this year, though.

Jeff Holen said a rival non-league coach told him he shouldn't rely on freshmen.

"To me, seniors at this time of year, their minds are on anything but golf," Holen said. "My freshmen went out and out-did their seniors. Then one of their kids said, 'I've got to get home so I can take this girl out on a date.'"

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