A victory there would be the program’s first against the Wolverines and likely clinch a tie for the Bay Valley Athletic League’s regular season title.
But even if Deer Valley beats Heritage again, the Patriots know they’ll enter the league’s championship match on April 30 in excellent position for a long postseason run, which would start at the North Coast Section qualifier. This comes from finally fielding a team not reliant on only a few players, but one more than deep enough to play in league matches, which require six players per team.
“We have a lot more depth,” said senior Ryan Bell. “We’re at least a solid six-deep team, and even our backup guys have some really good scores a lot of the time.”
One of the Patriots’ notable accomplishments came at the Atwater Invitational at Stevenson Ranch. Playing a course where the players had virtually no experience, Heritage won its first tournament in school history, beating 19 other teams.
“It was really cool,” said sophomore Ryan Volta, whose 18-hole score of 81 was the fourth best on his team. “Nobody could stop smiling on the way back. None of us had really played there before – and that course usually plays tough – but on that day it didn’t play that bad. We just went out and dominated and were really consistent down the line.”
The improvements mean more than just tournament success. Nearly every returning Patriot player has a significantly better nine-hole average than in 2011. One of those is junior Carney Hocking, who finished runner-up in the BVAL tournament a season ago, losing in a playoff. Hocking is nearly two strokes better, while Bell has improved his card by more than three.
Two other athletes who have upgraded their games are Volta, more than four strokes better per round, and junior Gilbert Tarin, who has cut nearly eight shots per round off last year’s scores. Tarin’s accomplishments are especially noteworthy, as he was cut from the team as a freshman. After a year of practice, he came back as a sophomore, made the team, and has gotten significantly better in his junior year.
“The scores have been way down; everyone came back a lot stronger,” Tarin said. “We’ve practiced a lot more and come back better.”
The Patriots weren’t exactly starting from scratch this season. They lost none of their top players from a season ago, and will lose only Bell and Tyler Connell this year. The 2011 team finished second in the BVAL to Deer Valley. This year, their only loss in league came to the Wolverines in a two-stroke heartbreaker.
Head coach Mark Tinder feels this team can learn from that experience, noting that two shots over five players is a small amount. “Deer Valley has always clipped us by not having a big number,” Tinder said. “They usually have one great score and one good score, and the rest decent. They always beat us with the decent numbers. But I think we can do it now.”