Kittanning, Freeport golfers seek WPIAL team finals berth
One team hopes to surprise with a second trip to the finals, the other holds a high expectation of making a first trip there.
Kittanning and Freeport, the top two finishers in Section 1-AA boys golf, hit the course Tuesday morning in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals aiming to be one of the six teams to reach this year's final.
The Wildcats were the undefeated champ of the section, and they will tee off at 10:30 p.m. in a semifinal south of Greensburg at Cherry Creek Golf Club. The section runner-up Yellowjackets will start at 9 a.m. and travel to New Castle for the other semifinal at Castle Hills Golf Course.
Both semifinals have 10 teams, and the top three from each will advance to the final Thursday at Cedarbrook Golf Course.
Kittanning has been to the semifinals in two of the last three seasons but fell short of the final both times. Last year, the Wildcats were fourth in their semifinal, and this year, the section champs intend to advance to the next round.
“I did a little bit of research of other teams' scores in our bracket, and I think we're right in there with the better teams,” Kittanning coach Bud Stanley said. “We want to play our game, and if we do that, I think we fit in. We just can't have guys that normally shoot 40s go in thinking they need to shoot 36.”
The Wildcats have the luxury of a deep lineup, as Noah Kunst, Noah Spang, Christian Miller and Cole Davis all hold averages in the 40-45 range, and all have the ability to shoot nine-hole scores in the 30s.
The team also has the experience it gained from last year's semis, as four of its six players return from the team that was 10 strokes behind Winchester Thurston for a spot in the final.
“Playoff experience helps in any sport, and they won't be as awestruck going into the match,” Stanley said.
“We went down (to Cherry Creek) as a team Sunday and played the course. The one thing I think will be a factor is physical conditioning. It's a difficult course to walk for 18 holes, and that could be an issue.”
Defending champ Burgettstown appears to be the frontrunner in Kittanning's semifinal, but behind the Blue Devils is a wide-open field that includes Winchester Thurston. Whether Kittanning snags a finals spot or not, Stanley said his team should be proud of its season.
“We feel really good about what we've accomplished to this point,” Stanley said. “Winning the section was our goal in the preseason, and it came right down to the end in our match down there with Freeport.”
Freeport finished fourth in the WPIAL final last year, but only two players from that team — Cole Hepler and Audrey Clawson — return to this year's postseason. With that amount of turnover, the Yellowjackets are approaching this year as a new experience.
“Four of our six that went to the playoffs last year were seniors, so on paper, it looked like we had a lot of question marks,” Freeport coach Joe Sprumont said. “Give credit to these kids. A lot of them stepped in and we played (as a team) like last year, so we'll see what happens.”
The Yellowjackets also got a chance to play as a team on their semifinal course, where last year's runner-up, Sewickley Academy, and 2012 finalist Shenango will be a part of a field that has a number of playoff newcomers.
“(Sewickley Academy) has a reputation, but I really don't know a lot about the other schools,” Sprumont said. “We haven't heard much about them, but obviously they're good to make it this far.
“Our kids have the expectations high for (Tuesday), but what we've done so far has been a very nice year.”