Kittanning aims to seize chance at WPIAL title
Two rounds of golf are all that stand between Kittanning and its goal of a WPIAL title.
The Wildcats' senior-laden lineup will begin the postseason in the WPIAL Class AA semifinal at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Beaver Valley Golf Club in Beaver Falls needing a top-three finish in the 11-team field to advance to the final for a second straight season.
At the same time that Section 1-AA champ Kittanning tees off, section runner-up Freeport will compete in the other semifinal, which features 10 teams at Indian Run Golf Course in Avella.
The final is 10 a.m. Thursday at Cedarbook Golf Course in Belle Vernon.
Kittanning and its six senior players haven't been afraid of challenging for a WPIAL title after finishing fifth last season, and the Wildcats' coach says the team is focused for this week's play.
“I think we're focused and mentally ready,” Kittanning coach Bud Stanley said. “That's the nice thing about older kids. They're more mature and know how to go about their business.”
Kittanning's lineup will be the same six that led the team to an undefeated regular season with Cole Davis, Christian Miller, Noah Kunst, Noah Spang, Nathan Falchetti and Jeremy Yackmack — all seniors and at least two-year starters.
That group knows that it will take a strong round to advance Tuesday, but they also know there's no prize for finishing first in the semifinal.
“I don't like the word conservative. I like the word smart. Our guys need to play smart and avoid disasters out there,” Stanley said. “I just want us to be ourselves and not try to be something we aren't.”
The team played a round Sunday at Beaver Valley to prepare for the semifinal, which has some challenging opponents.
Defending champion Sewickley Academy leads the field at Beaver Valley, which also includes 2010 and 2011 champ Neshannock and nearby Beaver.
Freeport, which finished third last year in its second consecutive WPIAL final, doesn't have the same level of experience as the Wildcats. Only juniors Audrey Clawson and Justin Hildebrand return from the 2013 final, but this year's Yellowjackets already logged a practice round at Indian Run and hope to find a way back to Cedarbrook.
“We haven't really talked about (the final). We've just talked about taking it one shot at a time and one hole at a time,” Freeport coach Joe Sprumont said. “It's not a sprint, it's a marathon, so the kids need to be ready for a longer day than normal.”
Freeport's semifinal is highlighted by last year's runner-up and a five-time champion in Burgettstown, while 2013 finalist Laurel also is in the Yellowjackets' semifinal.
“We know very little about the teams we're playing. We know a name like Burgettstown, but the teams we know, like Kittanning and Deer Lakes, are all in the other semifinal,” Sprumont said. “You can't play defense in golf, so that really doesn't matter.”
While rain fell for much of the day Monday, the forecast for Tuesday's play is for cool, dry conditions. No matter what the weather brings, both coaches feel their teams are ready for their biggest round of the season.
“Weather's always a factor in golf, but I think our guys will be able to deal with it,” Stanley said. “Going into something like this, you have to respect everybody, but I think our (scoring) averages stack up well.”
“The conditions will be the same for everybody, and our players know that,” Sprumont said. “We've played in all conditions, so our kids just have to go out and play their game.”