Kewanee 1A girls golf regional
KEWANEE — There was a moment of shock before the St. Bede girls golf team fully realized what it accomplished Thursday.
“It took a second,” St. Bede coach Rich Cummings said. “Their mouths dropped and they looked at each other and were like, ‘We won?’ Then they really embraced winning and embraced each other. They were emotional. There were a lot of tears shed.”
The Lady Bruins carded a 384 to win the Class 1A Kewanee Regional by five strokes over the host Boilermakers. Peoria Notre Dame placed third with a 397.
“It was amazing,” Cummings said. “It was a complete surprise, really. Coming in, we knew what Kewanee was capable of, and we knew what Peoria Notre Dame was capable of. Our girls came together. They played an amazing front nine. That’s what really carried us through. I think the depth we have with six capable golfers out there is really what helped us immensely.”
It was the first regional title for St. Bede since 2010.
“They were going out for a team dinner to celebrate,” Cummings said. “They’re having a ball with it, as they should. We drove by football practice and honked the horn and yelled out the window at those guys. They stopped practice and gave us round of applause. That was nice for them. They’re really enjoying it.
“I’m really proud of the girls.”
Sophomore Payge Pyszka, who was golfing in the No. 5 spot, led the Lady Bruins with a 92, while classmate Ally Mendoza and freshman Gianna Grivetti each shot a 97. Senior Andi Cattani rounded out the scores for St. Bede with a 98.
“Payge Pyszka came out and shot the round of her life,” Cummings said. “Andi Cattani, who had some struggles early in the year, is our senior leader and she had a great front nine. She had her best round of the year today. It was a team effort.”
The Lady Bruins now get to return home for the sectional Monday at Spring Creek Golf Course.
“If you look at the field coming, you could almost say it’s the state championship,” Cummings said. “If you’re in the area and a golf fan and you want to see some great high school golf, get out there Monday. It’s going to be a tournament that’s up for grabs with some of those great programs coming.
“We’re a young team, and I hope the girls learn a lot from it.”
Putnam County’s Ali Ciucci shot an 88 to place second individually behind Kewanee senior ace Riley Hansen (79) of Neponset, who claimed her fourth straight regional medalist honors. Ciucci’s freshman sister, Gracie, shot a 112 to grab the last individual spot.
“It felt really good,” said Ali Ciucci, who birdied No. 16. “I was not expecting second place, that’s for sure. When I saw the final scores, I got really excited and I was proud of myself.
“My drives were really good today, but my short game was not as good as it usually is.”
Ali Ciucci shot a 44 on the front and back nines.
“She was just consistent throughout the whole round,” PC coach Chelsi Straughn-Niewinski said. “She had a couple holes where she had double bogeys, then she’d bounce right back and didn’t let it get out of control. She didn’t have anything higher than a six, which is always helpful.”
Ali Ciucci is hoping to shoot a career best on Monday and qualify for the state tournament for the first time.
“I hope to shoot in the low 80s since I know the course pretty well,” Ciucci said. “That’s really all. I hope to shoot a personal best, so better than 84.”
Straughn-Niewinski said the younger Cuicci probably surprised herself.
“When she came in, I don’t think she thought she’d make it,” Straughn-Niewinski said. “I started looking around at the scores and said, ‘I think you’re going to be in the last spot,’ and she’s like, ‘No way.’ She was pretty excited once she found out she did make that last spot.”