To say the competition at the top of the Shore Conference girls golf landscape this spring was intense would be an understatement.
But the final, most powerful statement of all, was sent on the final day of the state season, when Red Bank Catholic came through with a second-place finish at the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions at Trump National in Colts Neck.
While Ridge, the defending champion, was rolling to victory with a team total of 344, it was the Caseys who came through with a 376, four shots better than Montgomery.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way this team played this season,” said Red Bank Catholic coach Bill Kusch,
But when the season began, there were very few givens for the Caseys. Their rivalry with Colts Neck went to another level.
At the Monmouth County Tournament at Jumping Brook, it was Colts Neck who emergedas the overall champions. After each team finished at 383, the Cougars took the crown in a tie-breaker based on a better score from their fifth player.
“I think there was a lot of pressure on this team before that,” Kusch said. “After that, I just said to them, ‘Girls, we just lost, and those things are going to happen.’ But in a way, I think losing to Colts Neck took a lot of that pressure off this team. In a way, it recharged their batteries and got them going. They stayed focused.”
The rivalry was just as intense at the Shore Conference Tournament, when the Caseys came away with a one-shot victory over the Cougars at Pine Barrens.
Ten days later, it was the Cougars who inched back ahead as they finished ahead of the Caseys at the NJSIAA South/Central team sectional at Bey Lea. That set up the final meeting at the Tournament of Champions at Trump National in Colts Neck.
While the Caseys had Taylor Totland at the top of the lineup, it was the way the rest of the team rallied that impressed Kusch.
Totland won the individual title at the Tournament of Champions, but Molly McHugh and Clair Rochford each broke 100, while Taylor Clark posted a 108.
“I think what you saw was, besides Taylor, the other girls started working a lot harder,” Kusch said. “They saw how hard Taylor worked on her game and really started to focus, particularly working on the short game.”
With every player in their staring lineup returning, and several players expected to enter the program next year and challenge for playing time, the goals may have to change a bit for the Caseys.
“This is the kind of season we should be able to build on,” Kusch said. “Maybe we can get to the point where we can challenge for a team state championship. That’s certainly something to shoot for in the future.”