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With eye on future, Crusaders ready to tee off in the moment

Mark Cheney teaches a sports psychology class at Faith Lutheran, and one of his primary lessons to students is to live in the moment.

But even Cheney can’t help peeking ahead to next year.

“I like to stay focused in the present, and that’s something I preach on a regular basis,” said Cheney, the Crusaders’ girls golf coach. “And at the same time, you’re always thinking, ‘How can we get better? How can we improve for next year knowing who we’re going to compete against?’ “

Faith Lutheran has dominated the sport at the Division I-A level since 2012, and the Crusaders are expected to be major players in the Sunset Region when they move to Division I next season.

Before that, though, the three-time defending state champions will compete at the Division I-A state tournament for the final time beginning at 9 a.m. today at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City.

The opening round of the Division I state tournament tees off at 10:30 a.m. today at Primm Valley Golf Club’s Lakes Course in Nipton, Calif.

“We’re all looking forward to just winning that state title, for the fourth-peat, and then getting our state rings. But I don’t think we look too far ahead at all,” Crusaders sophomore Sydney Smith said. “Cheney makes sure that we stick to what’s important now, and what’s important now is just getting better and not slacking because of not having as stiff of competition.”

Faith Lutheran rarely has been challenged on the course since the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s realignment placed the school in Division I-A. The Crusaders’ 2012 team featured five players currently playing at the college level and is one of the best in state history.

Faith Lutheran easily won the I-A title that season, and its two-round total at the state tournament was 62 strokes better than Division I champion Spanish Springs on the same course.

“I don’t know that I think of a what could have been,” Cheney said. “Our placement in the I-A was the best placement for the school and our entire athletic program, and it happened that 2012 was the best group we’ve had.”

The Crusaders coasted to the championship in 2013 and edged Clark by 13 strokes at state last season. Unless a “Tin Cup”-style case of the shanks suddenly sweeps through the team, Faith Lutheran shouldn’t be challenged over the next two days, either.

The Crusaders shot a season-best 9-over-par 297 on Sept. 17 at Siena Golf Club and carded a 310 to win the Division I-A Southern Region tournament last week by 75 shots over Clark. Lowry, the top team from the Northern Region, carries a 376 average.

Smith was the medalist at the Southern Region tournament, defeating teammate Morgan Goldstein on the fifth playoff hole after each shot even-par 72 at Mountain Falls Golf Club in Pahrump. Goldstein, a freshman, has been even par or better in seven or her nine matches this season.

The Crusaders’ lineup also includes freshmen Cameron Griffin and Haley Lilla, sophomore Adrienne Berg and junior Olivia Vogel, giving Cheney optimism as the program primes for the step up in competition in 2016.

“If you look statistically, this group is probably the (best) team I’ve had since that 2012 team,” Cheney said. “And as young as they are, they have a chance to surpass that team as we move forward. That’s exciting moving up next year and knowing we have all of them back and we’ll be better.”

— Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ

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