Palo Verde girls golf coach Todd Steffenhagen was asked by a few of his players’ parents whether it was safe to make travel arrangements to accompany the Panthers to the Class 4A state tournament.
Steffenhagen didn’t have an answer.
“I’d like to say yes,” he told them, “but there’s lots of things that can happen.”
For the first time in several seasons, the outcome of the Sunset Region tournament won’t be a foregone conclusion as four talented teams will be in contention when play begins at 11:30 a.m. Monday at Siena Golf Club.
The Sunrise Region tournament tees off at 12:30 p.m. Monday at Chimera Golf Club. The top two teams and the top five individuals from nonqualifying teams advance to the Class 4A state tournament Oct. 17 and 18 at Eagle Valley Golf Course in Carson City.
“This is my sixth season, and this is the most depth I’ve seen,” Steffenhagen said. “It’s really tight. Somebody could win it, or not even go.”
Bishop Gorman is the three-time defending region champion and enters as the favorite. The Gaels posted a season-best score of 15-over-par 303 in a Southwest League match on Sept. 14 at Siena and shot 309 on two other occasions; no other team in the region broke 310 during a league match.
Gorman features Rose Baral, Danielle Oberlander and Hunter Pate, who finished third individually at last season’s region tournament.
“This is by far our stiffest challenge all season,” Gorman coach Jim Stanfill said. “With realignment, we haven’t faced much in the way of competition. Now we go into region against three teams that are playing week after week in very competitive matches. Will we rise to the task?”
Palo Verde, paced by defending individual champion Annick Haczkiewicz, split two nine-hole matches against Gorman and was first in all five Northwest League matches. But three of those matches were decided by only four strokes, and the Panthers’ largest margin of victory during league play was 11 shots.
“You play at a course like Siena and somebody gets stuck in those fairway bunkers, and that’s six shots on one person,” Steffenhagen said. “It’s a one-day deal, so you’ve got to stay away from the big numbers and try to get it in there with a good score.”
Centennial finished second to Palo Verde on four occasions and is led by Hailey Stevenson and Jade Magana. Faith Lutheran, which won the past four Class 3A (previously Division I-A) state titles, also is in the mix.
To illustrate the competitiveness of the Sunset tournament, Centennial’s worst team score of the season (332) would have captured three of the past four region titles.
“It’s been a little disappointing not having that kind of quality out there the last couple of years,” Stanfill said. “This year, there’s a lot of stars out there. It’s very encouraging to see that much competition on the girls side.”