HAMMOND, Wis.-- St. Croix Central junior Sally Vangsness did what she’s been doing all season long at the WIAA Division 2 girls golf sectional in Rice Lake Wednesday, Oct. 7. But she’s not the only reason the Panthers are returning to the WIAA State Tournament.

Vangsness shot an 86 at Turtleback Golf Course to tie Prescott’s Jessica Heinsch for second place, but the Panthers also got a season-low score of 92 from junior Sarah McHenry and a 93 from senior Jenna Wehausen to place three golfers in the top ten and beat Eau Claire Regis/Altoona by 13 strokes for the second and final state qualifying spot.

“Obviously I'm super thrilled with our performance,” Panther coach Logan Kimberly said. “We definitely played well as a team and finished strong.”

Prescott took the sectional team title with a total score of 349 and St. Croix Central shot 371 to both qualify for state for the second consecutive seasons. Regis/Altoona was third with 384 followed by Ladysmith with 415, Baldwin-Woodville and Spooner each with 423, Hayward with 427 and Flambeau with 444.

Junior Gil Holme rounded out the Panthers’ team total with an even 100 and junior Sydney Burgess shot 101. Kimberly said the Panthers’ No. 4 and No. 5 golfers stepped up their game, particularly McHenry with her season-low 92.

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“I'm so happy for her,” he said. “She played relaxed and confident throughout the whole round.”

As for Vangsness, who placed third in the Middle Border Conference race for Player of the Year this season and earned first team All-MBC honors, Kimberly said she’s capable of shooting even better than her second place 86.

“She'll be the first to tell you she didn't have everything clicking,” Kimberly said. “She has the potential to really wow some people down at state.”

Kimberly said in the week leading up to the sectional he preached to the team about finishing strong on the back nine at Turtleback, particularly the challenging final five holes. The Panthers trailed Regis/ Altoona by four strokes at the turn but gained seven strokes on the next four holes to open up a three-stroke lead with five holes to play. They widened the gap by 10 more strokes down the stretch to beat Regis/Altoona by 13.

“This was exactly what I meant by finishing strong,” Kimberly said. “They made us earn our trip to state, and our girls kept calm and golfed on.”

Because of COVID restrictions at University of Wisconsin facilities, including University Ridge Golf Course, this year’s WIAA Girls State Tournament will be played at the Meadow Valleys Golf Course at Blackwolf Run in Kohler Oct. 12-13.

St. Croix Central finished third at last year’s state tournament at University Ridge while Vangsness tied for sixth individually with a two-day total of 173 (86-87).