Fine season ends with playoff run

There were plenty of firsts for the Spartans during the girls' golf team's inaugural season.

It was the first time six of the squad's 15 players had ever even picked up golf clubs, but La Cañada High still qualified for the CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoffs for the first time.

Unfortunately for La Cañada, it was unable to keep the magic of its regular season going into the postseason. The team's playoff drive ended in the first round Oct. 27 at Soule Park in Ojai.

"It was the first time any of us had ever been to the playoffs, besides Jennifer [Kim]," Coach Rich Wheeler said. "It was the first time most of our team had played 18 holes, and we were the first team in five years to apply for an at-large bid."

La Cañada tied with La Reina for 14th out of 24 teams in the tournament with a team score of 466. The top-four finishers on the day, Torrance (374), Palos Verdes (392), Hart (395) and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame Sherman (401), each advanced to the CIF finals.

"I looked around during the playoffs and thought, 'What is La Cañada doing with these schools,' " Wheeler said. "These are all huge schools and here we are with our six little players in our little car doing our thing. It brought us closer together as a team and we got hungrier."

The Spartans managed an 18-hole scoring average of 77.6 in the playoffs, five shots over par at Soule Park's par-72 scores. Kim, a sophomore, led the Spartans as usual, shooting a 79. Teammate Melissa Leo, a freshman, had an 85, sophomore May Lo scored a 93, junior Caitlin Perry had a 100, senior Kelly Barnes had a 101 and junior Shannon Lee had a 110.

La Cañada accepted an invitation to join the Pacific League on Friday, after spending the first season as an independent team. The league is composed of Arcadia, Burbank, Burroughs, Crescenta Valley and San Marino.

"I think it's going to be a good move for us," Wheeler said. "It's going to be a lot tougher."

The first girls' golf season may be in the books for La Cañada, but the future is bright.

"I'm amazed at how good our team is for the first year," Lee said. "I think we can definitely make a lot of improvements for next year; not only score-wise, but growing as a team."

Only Barnes is leaving the varsity squad next year.

"Everyone is coming back next year and they've all been to the playoffs now," Wheeler said. "We're feeling excellent about the future; we're already talking about it."

Kim and Leo, the team's two stars, who boasted 18-hole scoring averages of 77.2 and 78.4, respectively this year, will return to the team in 2011 with hopes of fuelling a longer playoff drive.

"Because the team is so young, I think they have a good shot at doing really well in future years," Barnes said. "Almost all of the junior varsity team is made up of freshman and they're all going to get better and improve. I see them having a great future and I am glad I could at least be a part of them starting up."

Wheeler is quick to push any praise regarding the undefeated regular season to his team.

"Once the girls tasted victory you could see them pull together," Wheeler said. "The kids got hungry toward the end and were just overpowering some schools."

La Cañada will strive to do this all for a second time in 2011.

"Can we live up to the standard we set this year?" Wheeler said. "That's the challenge we're going to have next year."

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