By Kyle LoJacono
The Steinbrenner High girls golf team set lofty goals before this season and the squad managed to deliver the first state tournament appearance in school history.
“This has been a very rewarding team to coach,” said coach Mark Mann. “They all said they wanted to get to states as a team before the season. Of course they wanted to win it, but you have to get there first to win it. They battled the whole two days in states and it was amazing to see them fight as hard as they did. “
The Warriors shot a two-day total of 717 in the Class 1A state tournament Nov. 2-3, good enough for 11th place out of 16. They were the only team from Hillsborough or Pasco counties to reach the event.
“It was really special, especially for the younger players,” Mann said. “The freshman haven’t played that much golf before in a short time. They played 36 holes over two days plus a practice round. They might have gotten a little tired and it was probably a little overwhelming to go up to the first tee in front of all those people and have their name announced. The scores weren’t terrible and they really worked for them.”
Senior Alex Milan led the way for the Warriors with a 7-over 151 during the two days, good enough to tie her for 16th place. Milan has competed individually in the state tournament the last two years, finishing in ninth place in 2008 while attending Sickles High and eighth last year at Steinbrenner.
“It obviously wasn’t the finish I was looking for in my last year,” said Milan, who will sign Nov. 12 to play at Florida State University. “Every time I go out there I’m going for the win … It was really special to get to states with my team this year. It’s my last season and it was great to be able to experience states with my team.”
Milan also won the individual 1A-14 district crown, her fourth title. Mann has coached Milan since she played at Sickles and knows it will be tough to replace her next year.
“Having her leadership is like having a second coach,” Mann said. “If I’m with another group in practice or something, she always helps the other girls. They all try to be like her. It’s really rare to have a kid with those qualities and be as good as she is.”
Junior Michelle Stein shot 181 in the tournament, followed by junior Sara Bair’s 185, freshman Brooke Deal’s 200 and Andi Milan’s 222. Only the top four scores count toward the team’s total.
“It was my first time in states and it was really a lot of fun,” Bair said. “Now that we all have experience with it I think we can get back and do better next year.”
Jan Chanpalangsri from St. Andrew’s High in Boca Raton won the individual state championship with a 7-under 137 and Windermere Prep High won the team title with a 589.
The Warriors may have come up a little short of Steinbrenner’s first state championship, but they had many other accomplishments in the school’s second year. They took home the first district championship in program history and followed that up as the runner-up in the 1A-5 regional tournament.
“I’ve seen a lot of positives in the program,” said Steinbrenner athletic director Eddie Henderson. “The kids are really excited about the program and I think that will get more kids to come out and join the team and participate in all of our athletic programs.”
Mann agrees with Henderson.
“The interest in the team is very high because of what they accomplished this year,” Mann said. “Alex is a great player and losing her will be tough, but we have a couple of strong freshmen who will be joining the team next year and that will give us a very level team. They’ll be competing against each other every week for those spots in tournaments. They’ll continue to build the tradition we’ve started.”
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