Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional boys golf preview
Upsetting the usual order is the goal for the local boys golf teams.
Norwin and Penn-Trafford enter this season aiming to knock off the usual power pair of Latrobe and Indiana in Section 1-AAA, while Franklin Regional and the other teams in Section 4-AAA have an opening, as realignment leaves Fox Chapel as the only 2011 playoff team in the section.
The Knights and Warriors will be joined by Derry, Hempfield and Section 1-AAA qualifying host Greensburg Salem in the chase to knock off Indiana and Latrobe this year, while the Panthers also face Gateway, Kiski Area, Penn Hills, Plum and Woodland Hills, in addition to the Foxes, who will host the Section 4-AAA qualifier.
Below is a glance at each team's outlook for this season:
The Knights have a handful of new names on the varsity roster, beginning with the person filling out the lineup.
Jim Mizikar is beginning his second stint at the head coach of the Knights golf team, as he replaces Bob Shrader, the man who filled the job when Mizikar first left it in 2004.
"During the school renovations, between that and teaching, I didn't have the time to do proper justice to the (golf coach) job," Mizikar said. "Mr. Shrader took over for me then, and when he was ready to give it up, I took it back."
Helping Mizikar in his first year back will be a pair of returning starters for the Knights, senior Luke Repicky and junior Nick Nguyen.
The two returners have been Mizikar's two most consistent players during tryouts, but players such as Dan Conwell, Nick Johnson, Dominic Prosser and Dominic Ammon and others could factor into the team's lineup.
The biggest thing for Norwin, Mizikar said, is how his inexperienced team reacts to the pressure of varsity play.
"That's the $50 question right there," Mizikar said. "I don't have a feel for them yet. There's signs of some real good golf there, and there's signs of needing to keep their heads on their shoulders."
Though the Knights might be a work in progress, the coach said, he likes the potential in the group of players he has.
"It actually seems like a nice bunch of boys to work with," Mizikar said.
"When I coached before, I always had a couple hotheads in the group, but I haven't seen a temper like that out of any of them. In that regard, it should be a nice year.
Norwin was scheduled to open section play with matches against Greensburg Salem and Derry earlier this week and host Hempfield on Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Irwin Country Club.
Like their rivals from Norwin, the Warriors are dealing with a number of losses to graduation this season.
Leading the way for Penn-Trafford will be senior Max Doran, who last year reached the PIAA Western Regional as an individual.
Among those who join him from last year's squad are fellow senior Dalton Yezovich and junior Evan Astley, both of whom will be regulars in the P-T lineup. Junior Dom Cervone also looks to have a regular spot nailed down after being the team's second-best scorer during tryouts.
"Max had a nice junior season and just missed the cut for states. I know he did some traveling and playing this summer," Penn-Trafford coach Walt Bechtell said. "Dalton, by the looks of tryouts, made some nice improvements to his game, and I'm very optimistic about Evan's contributions this year."
The team also has young potential in three freshman - Justin Guzik, Jarod Barton and Dave Calahan - while sophomore Trey Brown, who played in a few matches last year, also will be a young contributor.
Seniors Jordan Lock and Ryan Winslow and juniors Mark DeAngellis and Grady Zagorac also could fill in lineup spots as the season rolls on, as Bechtell described his lineup as "fluid."
"They all may get a chance to move in and out of the lineup based on how steady they play," the coach said. "Whoever's going to make the numbers in going to stay.
"The team to beat is Latrobe, in my opinion, but I do believe if these young kids without match experience can mature quickly enough, we could have a very successful season."
The Warriors were scheduled to get their big tests early, as they were to face Latrobe and Indiana Tuesday and Wednesday, both after this edition's deadline. P-T travels to Elizabeth Forward for a nonsection match Thursday.
The Panthers will be putting a young team on the course no matter how the lineup shakes out, but that isn't tempering the expectations of coach Jeff Traphagen.
Even with only one senior, Nate Hlozek, returning for Franklin Regional, the departure of perennial playoff team Central Catholic from Section 4 opens up a golden opportunity for every team in the section, including FR, which last reached the playoffs in 2005.
"We feel that Central Catholic moving out makes it possible to get to the team playoffs," Trap-hagen said. "We have a team that we expect will be in matches, and if we can win those close ones, we can get there."
Juniors Nolan Betts and Hassan Chughtai and sophomore Eddie Zhang all return to boost the Panthers. A group of players from last year's junior varsity squad are in the running for the remaining spots, including juniors Matt Fisch and Mike Gabrin and sophomores Brendon Gallo and Aaron Fallet.
"The big reason we have a JV team is to build and develop these guys. The fact that we only have one senior means this year will be good, but next year will be even better," Traphagen said.
Despite the bright future, Traphagen is keeping the focus on this year. If his team can perform in the big matches, he said, it can finish near the top of the section.
"We'd like to try and go 1-1 with Fox Chapel," Traphagen said. "Last year, we wanted to make sure we won all the other matches to have a shot (against Central Catholic and Fox Chapel), but we didn't do that and finished third."
Franklin Regional opened its season at the Gary Garrison Invitational at Latrobe Country Club on Monday. Results from that event were not available at press time.
The Panthers then were scheduled to play three section matches this week: Tuesday at Kiski Area, Wednesday at Plum, and at Penn Hills Thursday.