Coronado’s depth may decide title

Coronado’s girls golf team shot its highest score of the season in Tuesday’s Sunrise Region tournament.

But as “bad” as that was for the Cougars, their score of 331 trumped all competition in any division in Southern Nevada. Joe Sawaia, who’s in his 14th year coaching at the school, said this could be his best team because of the amount of depth it has.

That depth will be put to the test on Monday and Tuesday as the Cougars compete in the two-day Division I state tournament held at Somersett Golf and Country Club in Reno. The Division I-A tournament runs the same days, and is held at Ruby View Golf Course in Elko.

“This year is probably the deepest team we’ve had,” Sawaia said. “All of the girls are very competitive outside of high school. This is a really good group we’re taking up there. We can get four scores in the 70s everywhere we play, if the weather conditions permit.”

Coronado, which went without its top golfer in the region tournament, still prevailed because of its Nos. 3-4-5 golfers. Natalie Yamamoto, who withdrew after eight holes because of illness, is expected to be back for state and looks to improve on her sixth-place finish last season.

The Cougars, who are coming off back-to-back region titles, were state runners-up to two-time defending champion Spanish Springs. Coronado is much improved on that team, which lost by 26 strokes.

“I think we’re better because of our depth,” Sawaia said. “We lost two experienced players, but the girls we added and the improvement with those already in the program went up. There’s no question this is a better team this year. … Spanish Springs is the team to beat. I think we’ve gained ground a little bit. The biggest challenge for us is going to be the travel and playing on a course we’re not accustomed to.”

The team traveled north last weekend to practice on the course and left with some confidence.

“We have a pretty good chance,” senior Isabella Martinez said. “Especially because we have more serious girls on our team this year that are more dedicated to golf and winning this.”

Said sophomore Ashley Lung: “I think we’re prepared for it. We wrote down some notes after the practice rounds. The greens are pretty fast, but it’s no different than Anthem (Country Club) here. If we know how to react to the weather, we’ll be fine.”

Sawaia said everyone on his team has the ability to be at or near the top of the standings individually at the tournament’s end, but his girls really want the team title.

“We’ve had every girl be the medalist on our team (this season),” Sawaia said. “I’m pretty sure all four or five girls have had the low score, which is unheard of. Typically, you have one or two on the top end that don’t get beat, but these girls have all gradually improved and are working on the right things. More importantly, they’re good teammates to each other and they’re pulling for each other.

“I think what’s best about this team is they’re not caught up in individuals. We’re trying to focus on a team title. If you asked any of them, ‘Would you sacrifice an individual title for a team title?’ I think they would all answer yes.”

Freshman Gabby Denunzio, who led the team with an 80 in the region tournament, is anxious for her first state tournament appearance.

“I’m really excited to spend some time with my team, and playing golf as a team sport in a big tournament,” she said. “I feel like we have a pretty strong team this year.”

The Cougars will be looking for their first state title in girls golf.

“I think it would be really cool,” Denunzio said. “I know we would all be excited, and I think coach would especially be excited.”

Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.

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