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Tigresses advance to sectionals

(Photo contributed)
Coach Will Gross (back) and his Princeton Tigress golf team placed third at Wednesday’s Kewanee Regional to advance to the Lincoln Sectional. Team members are (from left) Audra Reidner, Sarah Crowe, Arraia Hicks, Julie Miller and Sophia Suarez.
(Photo contributed)
PHS freshman Audra Reidner watches her drive during Wednesday’s regional meet at Kewanee’s Baker Park.
(Photo contributed)
PHS sophomore Sophia Suarez taps a putt at Baker Park Golf Course in Kewanee Wednesday.

The Princeton girls’ golf team has grown up in a hurry on the links this season.

The Tigresses, which includes two freshmen and three sophomores, advanced to sectionals with a third-place team finish in Wednesday’s Kewanee 2A Regional at Baker Lake Golf Course.

“I could not be happier as a coach, and feel that I have been honored and blessed with this group of student athletes,” PHS coach Will Gross said. “These girls came into the season with little to no experience and have achieved every goal and have been outstanding, all through their impeccable will to get better each and every match. It is fantastic to see that their hard work and dedication paid off today, as they deserved it.

“For a team with no upperclassmen, they have not backed down from any team or challenge and demonstrated the Tiger pride today by advancing on to sectionals.”

That trip will take them to the Lincoln Sectional Monday, looking to qualify for the IHSA state finals next weekend in Decatur. Also qualifying for sectionals at Champaign were St. Bede’s Barbi Prokup and Gabrielle Mendoza, and DePue’s Mercedes Ruiz from the St. Bede Regional at Spring Creek Golf Course.

The Tigresses started out slow and found themselves standing in fifth at the turn, 13 strokes out of qualifying. Over the final nine holes, the Tigresses averaged 53.4 collectively to overtake Knoxville by four strokes, 447-451, to advance.

“The girls were very frustrated after the first nine, and did an outstanding job of composing their emotions and deciding they were going to fight until the end of this and leave it all out there, and they did exactly that,” Gross said. “We spoke before the 10th hole and knew we were not out of it and that if we could play the way we knew we could, we could still get in third and continue our season on.”

Freshman Arraia Hicks led the charge with a 47 on the back nine for a 101 to finish 12th overall, which would have qualified her individually, as well. She found a big welcoming party when she signed her card, knowing she punched the Tigresses ticket to sectionals.

Sophomore Sophia Suarez also improved by nine strokes on the back nine with a 50 to finish at 110. Classmate Julie Miller carded her best score of the season of 118, matching that put up by freshman Audra Reidner. Sophomore Sarah Crowe tallied a 120.

Aledo Mercer County (391) was the regional champ and Rockridge (413) took second.

St. Bede Regional: St. Bede’s Prokup and Mendoza, and DePue’s Ruiz advanced individually and Putnam County placed second to qualify for sectionals as a team at Spring Creek. They advance to the Champaign Sectional on Monday.

Prokup put up the fifth-best score of the day at 94, to go as the second individual qualifier from a non-qualifying team. Mendoza (108) had the seventh best qualifying score and Ruiz (115) claimed the 10th and final spot.

The Lady Bruins finished fourth as a team at 460 with Beecher claiming third place and the last qualifying berth.

Putnam County (416) came in second behind regional champ Kankakee Bishop McNamara. Carly Gonet (96) and Stephanie Wilson (97) paced PC with Monica Monroe (102), Tara Doyle (121) and Kelsey Grosenbach (123) rounding out the Lady Panthers’ scorecard.

Morris’ Olivia Keif was meet medalist at 82 followed by three Bishop Mac golfers, Gina Vallone (83), Meghan Kelly (89) and Caitlyn Amo (93).

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