SALISBURY — Unpredictability has not been the theme of the 2A girls golf scene in North Carolina.
The golf hotbed of the Pinecrest/Southern Pines area has been a Hornets’ nest for the last decade. The actors have varied but SHS, back-to-back state champs, will play a lead role again.
Salisbury coach Dale Snyder hasn’t taken any of it for granted, even with the girls team surging toward their third-straight state 1A/2A championship. The Central Carolina Conference championship match is Thursday in Salisbury and it’s one of several crowns the Hornets could win in the next few weeks. It’s hard for SHS to stay modest, but Snyder and his team approach their success with the even keel they’ve maintained over the last three years.
“Anything can happen,” said Snyder, who’s coached six championship golf teams at SHS in the last few years. “When you put the numbers up there, if everything stays the same, we’ll be really tough to beat. But that’s why you play the games. We still got to walk in there and do it.”
He’s right, but bet on Salisbury being at Longleaf Golf and Country Club at the end of the month for the state championship match. Salisbury is familiar with the course, which has hosted numerous state championships in recent years.
Junior Isabella Rusher is going for her third straight individual state championship. She turned heads as a freshman by winning by one shot and took first last year by 12 shots. Rusher, Grace Yatawara and Madeline Hoskins are 1-2-3 in the CCC individual standings.
The Hornets only lost one player, Brooke Smith, from last year and haven’t missed a beat so far. The Hornets dominated the county championship, winning by 68 shots. Two years ago, they won state by 33 strokes and took it by a whopping 60 strokes last year.
Rusher missed a match early in the year after stepping on a thorn bush but hasn’t been a thorn in the Hornets’ side. She’s continued to thrive, carrying a 37.2 scoring average. She shot 1-under par in a CCC match at Country Club of Salisbury and was 4-over last week at Sapona Country Club.
“The last one I wasn’t happy with,” Rusher said. “Golf has its ups and downs. You can’t always play great every match.”
Rusher wants to play at N.C. State, where her parents went to school and brother Joseph currently plays on the club team. Ivy League programs like Brown and Princeton have sported interest.
Yatawara is right behind Rusher, sporting a 38 average. The sophomore was third in the state individually last year and has shot under 40 in five of the six matches she’s played in.
“Isabella’s biggest competition could be Grace,” Snyder said. “Grace’s hitting balls so far and Isabella’s touch around the greens is amazing. It’s going to be fun to watch those two for the next two years.”
“I’m pretty confident with my swing right now,” Yatawara said. “It’s mostly my putting and chipping that’s been hurting me.”
Senior Madeline Hoskins, who’s won golf and tennis state championships within days of each other during the past two years, can end her prep career with seven titles if the Hornets can pull off both again. Tennis has won five consecutive crowns. Hoskins has shot 39 in three matches so far and carries a 39.6 average.
“She’s been great as a leader,” Snyder said. “No one would fault her for just wanting to be a part of both teams but she’s a leader for both teams.”
Caroline Parrott and Shelby Holden have come along and bolstered the No. 4 and 5 spots.
“Those girls are really stepping up and playing well,” Snyder said.
Salisbury has never had a proper conference slate with the former CCC not fielding enough teams. The reformed CCC carries West Davidson, East Davidson and Lexington with teams. That gives the Hornets a shot at a CCC championship in addition to their other accolades.
The regional match, scheduled for October 22 at Country Club of Salisbury, has been won by the Hornets three straight years. Salisbury has a match against Cannon School today and a conference match at Winding Creek Golf Course Wednesday.
The 2A state championship will be Oct. 28 and 29 at Longleaf, where Salisbury won in 2011. Last year it prevailed at Foxfire Country Club in Jackson Springs. For years the state championship was a combined 3A/2A/1A effort, but 3A has a separate championship match as of 2011. The top three scores will count in the state final.
“I know that course very well from numerous trips there,” Snyder said. “That’s where I feel I can actually help them since we’ve been there. “
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