Experienced Plum boys golf team raising its expectations

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 9:05 p.m.

Fresh off of its first WPIAL team playoff berth in more then twenty years, the Plum boys golf team returns a roster full of experienced varsity golfers that are ready to take the next step towards WPIAL glory.

“I think they're setting high goals for themselves,” Plum boys golf coach Ron Richards said of his team. “Last year they were excited to take that first step with making the playoffs. This year, we want to qualify and see what we can do from there.”

Richards' team caught fire at the end of last season, winning five of its last six Section 4-AAA matchups to clinch a spot in the playoffs. While the reshuffling of Plum into Section 8-AAA may present some new challenges, Richards is confident that his golfers have the talent to keep the team's positive momentum going.

“I don't know much about the new section. I know Hampton, Central Catholic and Shady Side are usually strong programs,” Richards said. “So it will be a step into new territory for us. I don't know what kind of golfers those teams have this season, but I know what we have and I like the team that we have returning.”

Richards has reason to be confident, as this season's Mustangs boast a starting lineup that includes four seniors and one junior, with the sixth spot still to be determined.

One of those seniors, Andrew Reynolds, finished second at the WPIAL semifinal last season and qualified for the championships. Reynolds, who has been starting for Plum since he was a freshman, has been working hard this offseason to ensure that his senior campaign will end on a high note.

“I've been dedicating a lot of time to get better and stay consistent,” Reynolds said. “I played in 13 tournaments this summer. I just want to continue practicing and getting better every day.

“It'll be tough to compete against all the new teams in our section, but if we just play our own game and focus then I think we can accomplish our goals.”

The Mustangs have already taken the first step towards its goals by defeating Gateway, 225-275 last week in the team's first match. Reynolds had his wisdom teeth removed the day before the match and was forced to sit out, but fellow senior Justin Sovak assumed a key role in his absence by shooting a match-low 39.

“Justin has the potential to be as good as anybody that we have,” Richards said. “He has all the potential in the world and I expect him to have a big year for us.”

Junior Samantha Shumaker also returns to the starting lineup. Richards describes her as always being, “match-ready and tournament-ready.”

Rounding out the starting lineup are returning seniors Tyler Arnold and Richie Rossi.

“They've been working hard and I believe the expectations are high for those two as well,” Richards said. “All these players have been working hard, and I think they still have their best golf ahead of them.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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