Driven to win
Kiski Area girls golf coach Nancy Gibson knew her team could have a strong season if players stayed focused and worked on their games over the summer.
The players listened to their coach's advice, then gave Gibson a message.
"They came to me with total enthusiasm," Gibson said. "They said, 'We're going to do it for you, Gibby.'
"They weren't telling a lie."
Kiski Area won its first four matches for its best start in the program's WPIAL history and takes a 4-1 record (2-1 WPIAL Section 2) into this week after its first loss against Fox Chapel.
"They went out and worked hard, and it's paying off," Gibson said. "I have a great group of girls. I don't think they realize how good this start is, but I think they're aware they're onto something good if they can keep the momentum going."
Gibson estimates some of her players, like juniors Krista Matarrese and Sydney Marteir, have knocked five to eight shots off their team scores because of hard work the past few months.
"Having good third, fourth, and, if you're lucky, fifth girls, can really make a difference and can make or break matches," Gibson said. "That's where it counts most."
Kiski Area's girls program began in 1996, and its first team went 10-0 but played a non-competitive schedule outside WPIAL play.
"I am really happy for Nancy and the girls," said Rich Mottura, the Kiski boys golf coach who started the girls team and coached it for five years.
Kiski has received steady play from No. 1 player and senior Jenna Tallarom, a regular qualifier for the WPIAL individual championship.
Tallarom, the team's top scorer at 40.2 strokes-per-round (through four matches), also played well this summer, winning the Willowbrook County Club women's championship with rounds of 85, 87 and 85.
"I lost in a playoff last year, so it was big to win this year," Tallarom said.
"Jenna is a wonderful girl, a good student and a fast learner," Mottura said. "We worked on a couple of new shots around the course this summer, and she picked up on them right away."
Junior Tiffany Brucker also played several junior events over the summer to get ready for the season. She is the team's second-leading scorer (40.25).
"Tiffany is a tremendous athlete, and that always helps beginning golfers," Mottura said. "She has good swing speed and hits good, crisp shots all the time. I foresee a lot of success for her."
Tallarom said her team's potential was most evident when the Cavaliers defeated powerhouse Upper St. Clair. In the past, some teams would consider it a success to finish within 10 shots of the Panthers, who are winners of the past 12 WPIAL team championships.
In a span of three days, Kiski Area posted two one-stroke wins over USC.
"You never expect to beat Upper St. Clair," Tallarom said. "We were all pretty excited to pull together and do that."
Sandwiched between those wins was a victory over Pine-Richland. Then, a win over North Allegheny.
The team's first loss came Wednesday at fast, firm Pittsburgh Field Club.
Tallarom was medalist with a 6-over-par 43, but Fox Chapel had three rounds in the 50s to secure the win.
"I told the girls how hard it is to have a perfect season," Gibson said. "I think the loss had a lot to do with school starting and their schedules changing. I think once they get into a rhythm, they'll be fine."
Gibson likens the setback to a bogey in a round.
"We just have to pick up and go to the next one," she said.
Kiski Area's fifth and sixth players are juniors Dani Krivoski and Emily Rovnak, respectively. Both have been supportive of the team and its fast start, Gibson said.
Tallarom also has been a team leader, almost by default. She's the only senior.
"I try to be as supportive as I can," Tallarom said. "Dani gives some pretty good pep talks, though."
Kiski Area plays host to Oakland Catholic on Wednesday at Vandergrift Golf Club, as Section 2 play continues.