MHS golfers take aim at repeat

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Morgan Narowetz and Middleton's girls golfers begin their quest for a second straight state title Friday./File photo

It was a euphoric, memorable, glorious two days that will be burned in their brains for the rest of time.

Middleton’s girls golf team, which had knocked on the door of a state title in 2013 and ’14, broke it down last season. The Cardinals rallied on the final day and nipped Hartland Arrowhead for the second WIAA Division 1 state championship in school history.

Now, despite the loss of state Player of the Year Loren Skibba, Middleton enters 2016 among the favorites to repeat as state champions.

The Cardinals bring back four of their top five golfers and appear to have the foundation to make another run at a gold ball. Middleton begins its season Friday at the Madison Edgewood Invite at Yahara Hills.

“Obviously we all have pretty high expectations for this group to make another state title run, but there is a lot of work to be done between now and October to get there,” said Middleton coach Becky Halverson, who has brilliantly maintained the tradition established by former coaches Dewey Stendahl and Jeff Kenas. “We will take it one day at a time and really focus on what each individual needs to work on to help the team make another run at it.”

For Middleton to make another state title push, it will need improvement from within to compensate for the loss of the brilliant Skibba.

Skibba, who is now playing at Northern Arizona, averaged 74.65 last season, which was the lowest average in the state. Skibba finished first at seven of 13 tournaments during the regular season and was never lower than eighth.

Skibba was second individually at regionals, sectionals and state. Skibba was then named the state Player of the Year by the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin.

Today, Skibba is undoubtedly on Middleton’s Mount Rushmore of girls golfers that also includes Jill Ries, Heidi Hinners and Lindsey Solberg.

“Losing Loren Skibba is definitely going to hurt,” Halverson said. “But I know how much these other girls have been working during the off-season to step up. I have confidence in this group of girls and I know they don’t want to skip a beat.”

Odds are, they won’t. That’s because Middleton returns an incredibly gifted group of veterans that includes seniors Alexis Thomas, Morgan Miles, Morgan Narowetz and junior Payton Hodson.

Thomas made enormous strides last year when she earned first-team all-state honors.

Thomas averaged 78.56, won the Big Eight Conference tournament and finished fourth individually at state. Thomas also fired a remarkable 1-under-par, 71, on the second day of the state tournament, which keyed Middleton’s run to the title.

Thomas was in the top-five in 11 of the 14 tournaments she competed in, including eight top-three finishes. And now, Thomas seems poised for a huge senior season.

“Alexis is returning off of a tremendous junior year,” Halverson said. “She has the drive and talent to really make strides this season.  

“I think she is ready to take over that No. 1 spot in the lineup and be one of the best girls golfers in the state. Alexis is so focused and knows exactly what she needs to do on the golf course. I’m excited to see her continue to progress this season.”

Narowetz had a strong junior season that included three top-three finishes and a fourth place showing at the Big Eight Conference meet. Narowetz’s season average was 86.12 and she was named honorable-mention all-state.

“Morgan Narowetz has been playing a few tournaments this summer and when she has fun with the game she does great,” Halverson said. “I really hope this season she can continue to have fun and relax when she plays.”

Miles also earned honorable-mention all-state honors in 2015 after cracking the top-10 at four tournaments during the regular season and finishing with an 88.72 average. Miles was then seventh at regionals, fifth at sectionals and 27th individually at state.

“Morgan Miles has been playing a ton of golf this summer and I’m really excited to see what she can do for us this season,” Halverson said. “Morgan always has a smile on her face and is a joy to watch on the course. She is very determined and has the drive to succeed that I’d like everyone to have.”

Hodson improved as much as any of Middleton’s golfers last year and was named honorable-mention all-Big Eight. Hodson finished with the year with 91.64 average, more than seven shots better than her 2015 average.

“Payton has switched gears lately back to golf from basketball and I’m thrilled to have her back again this season,” Halverson said. “She has a great golf swing that she has been working hard at.  

“She’s played in a lot of tournaments and I think she’s going to be really ready for this season. She’s a joy on the golf course and I really enjoy being around her.”

Middleton’s program is always one of the deepest in the state, and this year is no different. That’s given Halverson a bevy of candidates to choose from at No. 5 that includes senior Clare Day, juniors Haley Dunn, Grace Peterson and Allison Richards, sophomore Ella Schroeder and freshmen Bryn Jens and Kate Meier.

“We have a lot of girls with a year or two under their belt that have seen what it takes to climb into that varsity spot,” Halverson said. “It will be fun to see it all come together.”

The 2015 season couldn’t have come together any better.

Middleton trailed Arrowhead by four shots with three holes remaining at state. But the Cardinals gained a remarkable five shots in that time and edged the Warhawks by one shot to hoist gold.

Now, Middleton will try becoming just the third Division 1 school to repeat as champions since the WIAA broke the state tournament into two divisions in 2003.

“I think winning state showed the girls that hard work really does pay off,” Halverson said. “All of those short game practices when they would rather be relaxing really do make a difference. They now have seen that they can do it and how much fun it is to win state.  

“We will take a look at our trophy from last season many times and remember how it didn’t just come to us. There was a lot of work that helped them get that trophy. And teamwork!  

“They didn’t just win it by using one person’s score. It took all of them to make it happen and I hope they never forget that and how it felt to win state.”

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