By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- The Sherando High School golf team had every reason to feel good about Wednesday's performance in the 13th Annual Curly Licklider Memorial tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Course.
The Warriors, still with no seniors on the squad after fielding an all-underclassmen team last year, battled to a third-place showing in the 19-team field. That was a solid improvement from last year's sixth-place effort, and Sherando also shaved an impressive 16 strokes off last year's team score.
Just don't expect a giddy group of Warriors following a third-place effort. This year, they're expecting to win each and every time out on the course. Sherando coach Rob Wright noticed that focus on results heading into the season, and has used team meetings to try and clarify how his players should really measure their success this season.
"I said, 'I don't expect you to win everything,' because they always come out with high expectations which is terrific," Wright said. "But as long as we improve in every tournament from last year to this year, that's what we need to do."
Wright said his team was disappointed not to catch second-place finisher Tuscarora, which finished two strokes ahead of the Warriors' final tally of 467. Loudoun County easily won the tournament with a 455, dethroning two-time defending champion Tuscarora. Potomac Falls finished one shot behind Sherando, and Albemarle (477) rounded out the top five.
"I think the last four or five holes, individually one would mess up here and one would have a little trouble there and I think it just added up at the end," Wright said. "Overall, I think it was a terrific performance and gives us something to build on."
Loudoun Valley's Brandon Weaver won a one-hole playoff against Potomac Falls' Jason Guintu to win medalist honors with a 2-under-par 106.
Among other local teams, Strasburg was eighth (501), Skyline was 17th (561) and tournament host Warren County was 19th (628).
Sherando sophomore Brett Loy had the area's top individual finish, firing an even-par 108 to finish fourth. That shaved a stroke off his third-place effort last year, but Loy thought he could have put up an even better score.
"I feel like I played solid, just chipped really bad," Loy said. "I didn't putt extremely well, but I hit my irons really good."
Loy, opening the shotgun-start format on Shenandoah Valley's Blue No. 3, tallied birdies on the Blue No. 1 and No. 7 and the Red No. 7, but ran into trouble with back-to-back bogies on the White course.
It was still an encouraging day for Loy, who is still breaking in a new set of irons he got last winter.
"I was struggling for awhile, but I'm starting to get back now," Loy said. "I changed a few things. I think I'm going to do much better this year than last year. Irons were my worst thing last year, and now they're a lot better."
Other scorers for the Warriors were Jonah Pearson (116), Josh Hogue (117) and Mason Scott (126).
Strasburg first-year coach Jordan Hardy liked the mentality his new team showed in its first time competing this season.
"I'm pleased with the progress they're making," Hardy said. "I saw a lot of guys really grinding it out, which is what you have to do when you're not playing really well."
Jacob Smith (115) and Colten Smith (118) drew praise from Hardy for solid efforts on the 27-hole course. Other scorers for the Rams were Reese Taylor (133) and Garrett Richards (135).
"We've got some new guys and we've got some guys who've played, and they did all right out there," Hardy said. "I think a lot of it was jitters and adrenaline, maybe really juiced up. This course is close to home and a lot of them play the course."
Like Sherando, Skyline hopes to use last year's results as a measurement for this year's progress. That meant good news for the Hawks, who sliced 24 strokes off last year's team score.
"This is the first time since I've been here that you can really see a bunch of kids have the golf bug, and they're getting together and coming out and playing, and not being able to get off the course," Skyline coach Colin Miller said.
Anthony Crescienzi, the Hawks' lone senior, led the team with a 127. Brandon Griffith, a freshman playing No. 1 for Skyline this year, posted a 137 in his first varsity action.
"He was a little nervous coming into today," Miller said of Griffith. "He's going to be a great player if he continues to work hard and have a great attitude like he has thus far."
Also scoring for the Hawks were Vinni Cassiano (141) and Hannah Henry (156).
Improvement from last year was the theme of the day, and Warren County did its part to add to that storyline. It was an encouraging start for the Wildcats, who return the entire lineup from last year's squad.
"They did OK," Wildcats coach Matt Wadas said. "It was the first time, and definitely we want to see improvement from these scores but if we look at last year's scores we improved off that. So there was some improvement, but we don't want to be happy with these scores. We want to use them as sort of a base to improve upon."
Courtney L'Amoreaux led Warren County with a 141. Other scorers for the Wildcats were Brandon McWhorter (155), Chase Hatfield (161) and Peyton Poe (171).
Contact staff writer Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com