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Sewickley Academy girls golf team continues growth

| Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, 10:27 a.m.

Young program, very young team, lots of players and enthusiasm.

The Sewickley Academy girls golf team is beginning its fourth season, third as a varsity entity. The Panthers have a lot to learn about golf, at a time when most of them haven't learned how to drive.

"We are attracting more and more kids," said Nancy Means, the Panthers' coach. "We don't have a JV team, but in the very near future we will. We have 12 players and a 13th wanted to join."

Growing pains are painful. Sewickley Academy was 3-8 in section play, 3-9 overall last year.

"Our top player had graduated and two went off to boarding school," Means said.

Progress probably has been adequate, though, for the girls program was launched only in 2009, as a junior varsity squad. The first two varsity seasons have been a struggle, but satisfying in many ways for the coach.

"We had only a boys team and if a girl wanted to play, she had to try out for that team," said Means, who is assisted by Helen Miller. "Some girls got together a few years ago and talked about having their own team. They asked and I told them I'd be glad to coach."

That isn't surprising, considering the Means family's affinity for the sport. Nancy and her husband John, Sewickley Academy graduates, play as do their three sons, who were on the boys team when they attended the school.

Her current squad has only two seniors, captains Micaela Becker and Lauren Gedeon, and no juniors. The other 10 are split between the sophomore and freshmen classes.

The Nos. 1 through 3 players of 2011 return intact - Becker, sophomore Brianne Thomas and Gedeon. Becker was the Panthers' leading scorer. Means isn't sure who the other two starters will be.

"The rest are pretty similar in ability," she said.

They are sophomores Rachel Becker (Micaela's sister), Tanvi Rana, Sarah Manzinger and Taitum Shirley, and freshmen Katie Duggan, Kelsey Milo, Jane Blaugrund, Lili Travieto and Ellora Rakesh.

To bond, and for a crash course on crushing the ball, the Sewickley Academy girls spent part of last week at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, W.Va., outside Morgantown.

The boys team was there too. Means said her players benefited tremendously, playing the difficult course, practicing on the range and taking lessons from one of the pros.

"We really focused on the swing," Means said. "From the beginning of the trip to the end, we progressed so much."

Now it's time to test those burgeoning skills. The Panthers are in Section 2-AA with Central Valley, Ellwood City, Seton-La Salle and South Side Beaver. They opened section play Tuesday at Ellwood City and will play Central Valley at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Allegheny Country Club.

Central Valley is the two-time defending champion of WPIAL Division II (now AA), and has the majority of its players back.

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