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Norwin girls golf team chases first-ever playoff appearance

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Doug Gulasy | Trib Total Media
Norwin golfer Kaitlyn Spehar follows through on a tee shot during the Section 3-AAA qualifier held Sept. 18, 2013, at Vandergrift Golf Club.

The Norwin girls golf team is aiming for a program first in 2014: a WPIAL playoff berth.

Since becoming a varsity program at Norwin in 2008, the Knights haven't reached the postseason. But with three full-time starters and one part-time starter returning, coach Mike Buscemi believes his team has the potential to reach those heights this season.

“(Making the playoffs is) a short-term goal that I have,” Buscemi said. “I know we have a very competitive section. There's not one team in our section that's not capable of going into the WPIAL playoffs, so the girls will have to back up all that they did and play on the course. It's going to be very difficult, but I feel they can do that.”

Starters Rachael DelBene and Lindsey Robinson graduated after last season, but Norwin returns key players in senior Kaitlyn Spehar, juniors Ember Toth and Alyssa Idele and sophomore Morgan Johnson. Spehar, Toth and Johnson started most matches for Norwin last season, while Idele also gained experience in the lineup.

“Last year, (Spehar) had the lowest scoring average,” Buscemi said. “She's right on track to continue where she left off. She looked really good in our tryouts, even in the poor conditions. She's going to be a really solid player for me. I'm excited to have her back as my one and only senior.”

Sophomore Rachel Howard will join Spehar, Toth, Idele and Johnson in the starting lineup to begin the season. Buscemi said sophomores Holley Sanner and Naina Navalgund were “right on the top five's heels” competing for spots in the starting lineup.

After a 1-5 start in section play last season, Norwin came on strong during the second half of the season. The Knights won four of their final six section matches, and Buscemi hopes the team can carry the momentum from that performance into this season.

Buscemi said the players put in a lot of work during the offseason, both in the gym and on the course.

“I'm really pleased with what they did,” he said. “I can only give limited time as a coach, and they did a lot of it on their own. I always tell them that predominately, the most time you're going to have is with yourself to go out there and work on your game, and they really did. This year, many of the girls have improved.”

Buscemi said he was also excited to see some strong young players in sophomore Steffany Lochner and freshmen Jordyn Dean, Natalie Dobransky, Talia Lochner and Eimile McKinnon.

“They come in with more talent than I've seen in the past,” he said. “They've already gone to clinics and played in some summer golf. I'm excited. They need to work on their consistency, but it's a really nice upcoming group that's going to make contributions in the future to this team.”

The Knights opened the season with a 197-231 victory over Greensburg Central Catholic on Monday. Howard led the way for the Knights, shooting a 43.

Norwin will compete in Section 3-AAA with Franklin Regional, Gateway, Indiana and Penn-Trafford. The Knights hosted Oakland Catholic on Wednesday and will begin section play at Indiana on Thursday.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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