Southern Boys Golf in the Hunt for Several Spring Titles
It’s no secret. To describe the Southern Regional boys golf team, you need quite a few superlatives. Good – even very good – just doesn’t seem to cut it.
“Among all the good teams we’ve had at Southern, this team has the potential to be the best of them,” said coach Jeff Reilly, whose Rams last year went 20-1 en route to a third straight Ocean County championship. They have returned four of their top five golfers.
“We have four of the most talented players we’ve ever had on one team. So, yeah ... we’re very good. And we’re off to a great start.”
Prior to taking a spring break spin through the Palmetto High School Golf Championship tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., this week, the Rams kicked off the season with a pair of victories and two solid tournament efforts. In fact, this year’s Wildcat Invitational golf tournament drew 21 high school teams from throughout southern and western New Jersey on April 7, and 20 of them were no match for Southern.
The Rams captured a second straight Wildcat title with a team score of 318, a solid 18 strokes ahead of second-place Moorestown and 22 strokes ahead of Shore Conference Class A South rival Toms River North, which placed third.
Senior Matt Rizzo, the defending Ocean County champion, scored a 75 and finished tied with Jackson Memorial’s Zan Ahmad at the top of the leaderboard, although Rizzo ended up second following a match of cards. Meanwhile, Southern teammates Nick Campanelli and Caleb Rossi, both juniors, came into the clubhouse with scores of 79, and a match of cards placed Campanelli in third and Rossi in fourth.
After a solid effort in the Garden State Cup at Blue Heron Pines in Galloway on April 5, during which Southern finished 11th overall and Rossi placed 10th with a 76, the Rams started the regular season by routing Brick Memorial, 167-192, on April 3, and Jackson Liberty, 164-195, the next day.
Against the Mustangs, Rizzo kicked off the season with a 39, while Campanelli and Rossi carded scores of 41 and 42, respectively, and junior Chris D’Alessandro finished with a 45 as the Rams swiped the top four spots in the match. Against the Lions, Campanelli and Rossi each recorded scores of 39, followed by Rizzo with a 41 and sophomore Peter Fabian with a 45.
The Ocean County Tournament is scheduled for Monday, April 17. Reilly is confident his Rams can win it again.
“Matt’s our No. 1 guy, and the other three behind him are interchangeable,” he said. “But all four of them have the same individual goals. Each one believes he can win the county title, and they’re all going to be shooting for it. As a team, we’re probably the favorite. But we’re not taking anything for granted. Our guys still have to play their best to win it.”
As for the remainder of the season, the Rams definitely have more goals, including another Shore Conference Class A South title. However, with Toms River North in the division, going undefeated will be a chore, despite the experience and course prowess of Reilly’s “Core Four.”
“North is a very good team as well and it’s never easy beating them on their course at Bey Lea,” Reilly said. “To win this division, that’s going to be the big match for our guys. Otherwise, we’re going to be looking to medal at the Shore Conference Tournament this year, which is extremely difficult. Placing at the SCT has eluded us the past few years, but we’re going to give it a shot this year.”
The rest of the Southern squad is made up of juniors Matt Fey, Ethan Leming and Nolan Ruff, as well as freshman Jonathan Sheehan.
Southern Girls Rebuilding
While the boys golf team at Southern is off to a hot start, coach Jim McCabe’s girls team is in the midst of a rebuilding season and is off to a slower start, going 0-2 through its first two contests of the season prior to spring break.
“We got off to a rough start, but the girls are still of the mindset that they can improve and finish among the top three at the Ocean County Tournament,” McCabe said. “I certainly still see them as a competitive team, and we have plenty of season left for them to get better.”
Leading the way is senior Haley Sprague, the only returning starter from last year’s 10-2 squad. In a 232-238 loss to Toms River South to open the season on April 3, Sprague scored a 58, and followed up with a 51 during a 216-227 loss to Lacey two days later.
“I need Haley to go out there and beat or stay right with the other team’s No. 1 to give us a chance at the lower end of the lineup to make up strokes,” McCabe said. “She’s gained the distance on the tee and knows her shots, but she has to tighten up her short game. If Haley can pull her short game together, she’s capable of shooting in the mid-40s.”
Behind Sprague in the No. 2 position is another senior, Subah Soni, who shot a 59 against Toms River South. Juniors Mia Roslin, Lyndsay Pisciotta and Arielle Mednilla occupy the third, fourth and fifth spots.
“Each of our top-five girls has the capability to shoot in the 50s, and if we can do that consistently, we’ll be a very competitive team,” McCabe said. “We’re rebuilding, but we’re a good team. The five juniors on the team have been with me since they were freshmen, and they’re getting better. Now what we need is for the sophomore and freshmen to rise up and challenge them.”
The rest of the team includes juniors Annie McCallion, Jenna Miller and Tori Robbins; sophomore Kat Camoosa; and freshmen Juliana Cambra, Brenna Cousins and Grace Matusek.
— David Biggy