On Aug. 17, the Poland girls tore Niles up, posting a 160 to the Lady Red Dragons’ 262. Senior Maria Mancini led the team with a 32, followed by Giana DiBenedetto at 40, Melinda Hannon at 43, Rachel Sines with a 45, Christine Bilas at 47, and Breille Nocera at 58.
The next day, the girls returned to Mill Creek’s south nine to take another win, this time defeating Austintown, 166-211. Mancini was on top again with a 36, followed by Bilas with a 42, Hannon with a 43, DiBenedetto at 45, Sines at 47, and Anna Hagendom.
This past weekend, the girls traveled to Skyland Pines for the Mid-West Tournament hosted by Canton Hoover. The event featured the top 20 teams that have made appearances in state tournaments in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. The Poland girls ended up ninth in the field after shootinga 353 on what coach Judy Young called, “a challenging course.” Mancini shot an 80 and was 14th in the field of 100 participants. DiBenedetto shot an 88, Sines an 89 and Hannon a 96.
“This year's team is off to a good start with a dual record of 6–1 for the opponents they have played,” Young said. “They are averaging about a 338 average for 18 holes as a team.”
Young said all the girls work hard and make her proud. Mancini is one who stands out as a leader. She was a member of the 2008 state championship team when she was a freshman.
In 2010, Mancini, Bilas, DiBenedetto and Hannon were members of the state runner-up team. “Except for Mancini, those girls have only experienced a state trip once and all are hoping for a repeat and a win this year. Sines, a sophomore, was the seventh member of the varsity program last year, but she is proving her value to the team this year as a regular contributor. Other newcomers to the varsity program include Rachel Jeswald, Julie Morentello and Hagendorn who are all juniors.
“The girls have worked hard over the summer to improve their skills,” Young said. “Their scores reflect their dedication and hard work to the game. Their goal is to return to the state championships in Columbus in October. As we all know what we do early on in the season doesn’t matter. Each competition is a test that helps us identify where our skill weaknesses are and allow us to develop drills and practices to improve upon them for future.”
Young said to be a championship team in the sport of golf, a player needs to have a level of commitment to improve their skills needed to play the game 18 times on 18 different holes in a tournament.
“This team has made that commitment to take lessons, practice, play the game, practice, and practice a skill such as putting or 100-yard approach shots over and over again to get better,” the coach said. “Playing in summer competitions then re-evaluating where the weaknesses occur helps the player identify where she needs to practice again and again.”
The girls face Champion away tonight, then have a break before returning to the road on Sept. 1 when they will face Jefferson. Each will offer a new game on a different course that will test the girls ability to adapt to various conditions. Young said she doesn’t doubt their ability to bring home another winning season.
“The girls of the Poland Bulldogs amaze me as they work diligently on their skills and still take time to be and engage in typical teen-age activities,” she said. “As a coach, my job is to help them refocus when their plans and expectations about the game begin to fail."
Individually they are hardest on themselves to achieve on the course, I keep reminding them this is the hardest game to learn and play. They must be confident in their choices on the course when executing a chosen skill. This is not a game of second guessing your decision as a player on a shot or disaster will occur.”
Young continued, “It is a privilege and an honor to work with these young ladies with drive and dedication to the game. The trick to sustaining the program is to motivate a player with talent to play, practice and dedicate themselves to improving their skills.”
Photo by Mike Capps, Town Crier correspondent
Maria Mancini is taking the lead for her team and is hoping for one last trip to state in this, her senior year.