For the Daily Journal
As anticipated, it was a nip and tuck affair at the Center Grove girls golf sectional at Hickory Stick Golf Club in Greenwood.
From start to finish, Center Grove and Perry Meridian went toe to toe Monday before the Trojans eked out a win. Both teams advance to the Roncalli Regional, set for Saturday at Smock Golf Course in Indianapolis.
With their first-place finish, the Trojans have now won three consecutive sectional titles.
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Center Grove finished with a team score of 312, followed by runner-up Perry Meridian (319) and Whiteland (351).
The top three teams and top three individuals from non-advancing teams earn qualifying spots in the regional.
Perry Meridian senior Erika Shellenberger earned medalist honors by outdueling Center Grove senior Shelby Schier in a one-hole playoff. Each shot a 4-over-par 75.
“I think I started off pretty well,” said Schier, who finished with a front nine of 38. “However, I kind of fell apart on No. 9 because I had a 7 and I think that kind of affected the first two holes on the back nine. But then I regained my confidence.”
As the Trojans prepared for Monday’s sectional, the focus during the past two weeks has been simple: Do your best and have fun.
“Our coach basically tells us over and over: Go out there, compete as hard as you can and have fun,” Schier said.
Echoing those comments was Center Grove senior Hannah Wilson, who carded a 78.
“I hit the ball pretty well, but I did not make a single putt the whole day. Maybe just one,” she said.
Wilson, who just last week got her first hole-in-one on Hickory Stick’s 11th hole in a practice round, said the sectional is all about moving on.
“Coach just said to relax and have fun, so that’s kind of how we came into it, especially since this is Shelby and I’s last sectional so we just wanted to do our best.”
The Trojans’ No. 3 player, sophomore Lucy Young, carded a 79, followed by senior Kirby Swails (80) and junior Alyssa Voyles (87).
“This was a real dogfight with Perry,” Center Grove coach Jim Williams said. “It was like two heavyweight boxers going at it, so it was kind of fun to watch.”
As the Trojans prepare the rest of the week before Saturday’s regional, Williams said there’s no secret about the task at hand. The Trojans face a loaded field that includes not only Perry Meridian but top-ranked Westfield, Carmel, Zionsville, Ben Davis, Brownsburg and Plainfield.
“We’re going to have our hands full,” Williams said, “but hopefully we’ll go in there and compete and vie for a chance to get back to the state finals again.”
Whiteland has that same opportunity after advancing.
“We have a lot of young talent on this team,” said the Warriors’ first-year coach, Crystal Morse. “We were fortunate to have a leader in Audrey Eckart, our lone senior this year. A couple of our freshmen showed some nerves early, but once they got past those first few holes, they were good.”
Leading the way for Whiteland with an 84 was sophomore Bri Harwell. Eckart was next with an 87, and Rachel Gould shot an 88.
Roncalli finished fourth with a team score of 359, and Franklin was fifth with a 393.
Individual regional qualifiers included Roncalli’s Annie Sullivan and Nicole Clifford at 84 and 90, respectively, and Franklin’s Taylor Drake with an 87.