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Kiski Area girls golf team leaves comfort zone

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Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area golfer Chelsea Thompson blasts out of the sand beside the ninth green during a practice on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, at Vandergrift Golf Club in Allegheny Township.
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Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012, 10:00 p.m.
 

During the past two seasons, Kiski Area's girls golf team was as comfortable as a deep-rooted maple tree beside a rolling fairway ­— until the WPIAL came in with a chainsaw.

Golf season opens Thursday, and things will look different for Kiski Area.

Realignment took the team out of the competitively friendly confines of Division II (Class AA), where the Cavaliers finished 10-0 and won the Section 2 title the past two years.

Now they're in Class AAA and the newly formed Section 3, which also houses perennial powers Fox Chapel and defending WPIAL Division I champion Shady Side Academy, along with strong programs at Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional and Indiana.

“We can't get upset,” said Kiski Area coach Nancy Gibson, who begins her 12th season. “We can't sweat the small stuff. The way we look at it, it's just a lot more traveling. The courses are a little farther.”

In its two years in Division II (Class AA), Kiski Area posted a 27-3 record, which includes a 20-0 mark in section and the back-to-back section titles.

The Cavaliers return senior Chelsea Thompson, who qualified for the WPIAL Division II individual tournament last season.

“Chelsea was our player of the year,” said Gibson, who is 110-63 in her career. “Knowing Chelsea, with her total concentration and drive, she could end up doing that again this year. She is a fighter.”

Thompson has battled juvenile diabetes since 2009, but she hasn't let the disease stop her from succeeding in golf.

Gibson has just six girls out for the team, but she'll build around a four-senior core that includes Thompson, Rachel Weyant, Louisa Gibson and Theresa Gibson.

“Our seniors encourage the younger girls,” coach Gibson said. “They have had success. They have watched the flag go up in our gym. They know what it's like.”

The other players are sophomore Jordyn Palla and freshman Kelsey Kinnamon.

Fox Chapel, meanwhile, begins the post-Luttner era. A year after her sister, two-time WPIAL champion Nadia Luttner, graduated and moved on to play at Kansas (and then Coastal Carolina), former WPIAL champ Katerina Luttner moved on to play at Ole Miss.

The Foxes also lost standout Emilie Lawson to graduation.

Coach John Broderick will rely on seniors Ashley DeMoss and Lisa Miele. DeMoss finished 10th in last year's Division I finals.

Ford City, Kittanning and St. Joseph are the only local Class AA teams. The trio will compete in Section 1.

As far as local sectional tournaments go, Kittanning will host the Section 1-AA tournament Sept. 19 at Kittanning Country Club.

Shady Side Academy will host Section 3-AAA the same day at Saxon Golf Course.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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