It's not as if Servite hasn't produced one of the county's best golf teams in recent years. But this season, the Friars believe they can be No. 1.
And for good reason. Servite's three returning seniors are its top three players, team captain Will Luciano, Dave Lauder and Chris Arns.
They are in their fourth year together on the Servite varsity and they are the backbone of a team that barely qualified for the Southern Section team finals last season, but finished second once it got there.
The Friars have improved with that experience and there's some new talent too.
"The competition level is better with the depth we have," Servite Coach Curtis Marcell said. "We have six to 10 players that at any given time, can shoot a great score. That added pressure on the guys in the starting spots, I think, has improved everyone's game."
Marcell said three juniors are playing solid--Justin Ragonetti, Ryan Hiedorn and John Lantz--and four freshmen also are contributing.
One freshman has made the biggest impact, however. Nico Bollini, a highly touted junior player, is a scratch golfer who already has plenty of junior tournament experience.
Bollini tried to qualify for the Nissan Open and finished fifth in qualifying rounds at Green River.
"That shows what kind of maturity he has," Marcell said.
Said Lauder: "Physically, Nico is so much better as a freshman than I was. He just knows how to play. He's going to turn some heads."
So have the Friars. Already this season, Servite defeated University, a deep squad that features sophomore Brian Sinay. Sinay won the Southern Section individual championship last season.
"I think that win helped our confidence," Arns said. "Last year we lost to University and Villa Park in the preseason. When CIF rolled around, we weren't even thinking about getting past the first round of [the section regionals]."
But Marcell has always believed in this team.
"I didn't think we had that great a team," Luciano said. "But from Day 1, Coach was excited and told us we had a lot of potential. But we just kind of said, 'Yeah, whatever.'
"Then we go out to Saticoy [for the section finals] and finish second. We kind of fooled ourselves. I guess I knew we could play like that, but all season, everyone never played well on the same day. But we all played well that day."
The realization of their potential has sunk in.
"There's a more serious tone this season," Marcell said. "The team is really jelling early."
Experience and maturity are helping the Friars with the mental side of the game.
"Just knowing what shot to make when and sticking to your game plan," Luciano said. "I play more conservative now and my scoring is more consistent."
Said Arns: "We know now what we have to do to win. Last year, I shot 76 at the SCGA finals, but I had 38 putts. I want to help us get back there for some redemption."
Said Lauder: "We're learning how to score better. For me, it's something simple like thinking par instead of eagle. Before, I'd have rounds with eight birdies and 10 triple bogeys. I'm scoring more consistently now.
"Golf's fun and it's hard not to always try and hit it 260 yards over water. But you're not always going to be Tin Cup.
"We've all improved our game and I think we'll go all the way this year. I think it's our year."
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PRESEASON TOP 10
Santa Margarita: Defending SCGA champs are deep
University: Sinay leads talented team
Servite: Beat University this season
Sunny Hills: Schmidt leads always-tough Lancers
Huntington Beach: Reached section finals last year
Brea Olinda: Missed section finals by one stroke
Los Alamitos: League champs return five starters
Mission Viejo: Beat Dana Hills by one stroke last year
Dana Hills: Five starters return to challenge
Fountain Valley: Fast-rising team in tough league