The Prescott Cardinals ended the 2018 girls’ golf regular season at the very bottom of the Middle Border Conference standings with only one representative on the All-Conference team.
One year later, the Cardinals’ status in the Middle Border has completely changed.
The Cardinals finished in second place in the conference standings with a school-record 90 team conference points, which was a 54-point improvement from last season.
“We have a good thing going, and it’s just crazy how fast it’s come,” Cardinals’ head coach Chad Salay said. “I don’t know if we really, necessarily envisioned this. We knew we were going to be good, but we didn’t know we were going to be runaway second in the conference.”
The Cardinals finished just eight points behind the five-time defending conference champions, the New Richmond Tigers, who sealed their 2019 title on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the MBC Tournament by completing the 18-hole round at Ellsworth Country Club in 376 strokes.
The Cardinals finished in third place at Wednesday’s competitive tournament after shooting a 379, which put them one stroke behind the second-place St. Croix Central Panthers who had not defeated the Cardinals prior to the conference championship.
“I think we were just a little bit off,” Salay said. “At least for a couple of the girls, this course just does not set up well.”
The Cardinals had their hopes set on knocking off the defending champs but settled for runner-up status and four All-Conference honorees — accomplishments that seemed near impossible for last year’s team.
Prescott’s turnaround was led by freshman Ava Salay who finished with a perfect conference record and Player of the Year honors after completing her 10-win MBC season with a low, 18-hole score of 80 on Wednesday. The freshman only double-bogeyed once on the back nine; she either bogeyed, met par or birdied on the remaining 17 holes.
“I feel hyped about it,” Salay said. “I feel really good about how my season went. I think I played solid the entire season.”
But, rightfully, she believes there’s still more to come.
“I’m actually sad that my first year is almost over, but I’m excited that I still have three years left,” Salay said. “I can still improve a lot, and I’m excited for that.”
Alexis Fredericks, Liz Rohl and Jessica Heinsch also received conference honors, and the Cardinals were the only MBC team to have four of their five golfers finish in the top 15.
Fredericks finished in sixth place to make the All-Conference second team while Rohl and Heinsch were named to the honorable mention list for finishing 13th and 15th in the individual conference standings. Before Wednesday, Heinsch was sitting in 17th place in the conference standings. Her Wednesday score of 101 earned her a 13th-place finish at the MBC Tournament and four conference points.
“Jess Heinsch played really well,” coach Salay said. “That was not surprising, but that was what we were hoping for. She played as well as we were hoping for.”
But the Cardinals have more on their to-do list than moving to the top of the conference standings and earning individual MBC honors. Next, they’re hoping to make a run in the postseason.
The Cardinals will compete at Somerset’s WIAA Division 2 regional tournament at Bristol Ridge Golf Course on Thursday, Oct. 3, but they’ll be treating their tournament run just as they did the regular season.
“We always can get better at some of those aspects of short-game type things, but we don’t want to do anything too different,” Salay said. “Other than the practice round, that’s about the only thing we’ll change. The main thing is just keeping it as normal as possible.
The Cardinals’ new normal has worked out for them so far this season.
Three Panthers earn All-Conference honors
Despite dealing with constant roster changes and nagging injuries throughout the regular season, the Ellsworth Panthers finished in the top of the MBC standings and earned three individual All-Conference honors on Wednesday.
Ellsworth senior Holly Carlson led the fourth-place Panthers with a score of 90, which secured her spot on the All-Conference first team.
“I didn’t feel too good about today,” Carlson said, “but I mean, I knew what I had to do to stay on the first team.”
Carlson began the day with a bogey and double-bogey on the first and second holes of her home course but battled through a tough start to the day to finish in a seventh-place tie with Fredericks.
“I just know that I’m going to have bad holes in the beginning, and I just need to keep going forward and try and get those pars and bogeys back on my scorecard so that bad holes don’t turn into worse holes in the future,” Carlson said.
“We don’t talk a lot about things that have happened,” Ellsworth’s head coach Carson Huppert said. “We try to push that in the past and move on forward.”
That mentality has allowed the Panthers to play consistently throughout the season and finish in the top half of the MBC once again.
Aside from Carlson’s first-team honors, the Panthers were also represented on the honorable mention list by Anna Sweere and Charlize Smith who finished 11th and 14th in the individual standings.
The Panthers will be without seniors Carlson, Sweere and other varsity starters Kennedy Schommer and Stella Anderson next season, but the members of the class of 2020 will set their focus on sectionals and regionals before they reflect on their final time competing at Ellsworth Country Club.
“Right now we just need to build on (the seniors),” Huppert said. “I’ve had three to four years with every one of them. We get sick of each other, we battle through it, but it’s fun. I feel like we’re going to take a little step back this next week and refresh our minds and then we’re going to go hard next week and try to make that state run.”
The Panthers will join the Cardinals at Somerset’s regional where they’ll compete against all MBC teams aside from New Richmond. St. Croix Falls will also be in the mix on Thursday.
MBC Tournament Team Scores: 1. New Richmond (376) 2. St. Croix Central (378) 3. Prescott (379) 4. Ellsworth (411) 5. Amery (435) t6. Baldwin-Woodville and Somerset (444) 8. Osceola (450)
Prescott: Salay (80), Fredericks (90), Heinsch (101), Rohl (108), Lindsay Olson (110)
Ellsworth: Carlson (90), Sweere (95), Smith (104), Anderson (122), Schommer (125)
FINAL MBC Team Standings: 1. New Richmond (98) 2. Prescott (90) 3. St. Croix Central (81) 4. Ellsworth (66) 5. Amery (52) 6. Baldwin-Woodville (47) 7. Somerset (46) 8. Osceola (41)
First-Team Honorees (school, conference points): 1. Salay (Prescot, 100) 2. Jessica Hagman (New Richmond, 82) 3. Lanie Veenendahl (New Richmond, 79) 4. Carlson (Ellsworth, 70) 5. Sally Vangsness (St. Croix Central, 66)
Second-Team Honorees: 6. Fredericks (Prescott, 66) 7. Haley Meyers (Somerset, 59) 8. Sydney Nolan (New Richmond, 53) 9. Brooklyn Mishler (St. Croix Central, 47) 10. Madi Link (Osceola, 32)
Honorable Mention: 11. Sweere (Ellsworth, 30) 12. Parker Chladek (St. Croix Central, 23) 13. Rohl (Prescott, 17) 14. Smith (Ellsworth, 15) 15. Heinsch (Prescott, 14)