The Saint Stephen’s girls know they go into most tournaments with the best player on the course. Vanessa Yan, the Falcons’ only senior, finished 14th in Class 1A last year and has helped solidify Saint Stephen’s position as the private-school power in Manatee County. With adequate support, she could carry the Falcons deep into the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Yan was once again the best golfer on the course at The Meadows Country Club on Monday for the Class 1A-District 16 tournament, but it was only by one stroke. Teammate Maria Huang, an eighth-grader, posted a season-best 76 to give Saint Stephen’s the top two individual scores in Sarasota. Entering the postseason, Huang had yet to crack 80.
“It was absolutely wonderful to get her to do that,” Falcons head coach Letitia Zilar said. “She’s finally learned how to score. She’s breaking 80 — that’s what I love about her game.”
Led by Yan and Huang, Saint Stephen’s was the only girls team to advance to the Class 1A-Region 6 tournament next Monday in Bradenton with a team score of 341. Out-of-Door Academy also qualified three golfers — Vivian Kuang, Christy Wyatt and Lexi Murphy — for the Oct. 17 tournament at Bradenton Country Club after they beat out golfers from Cardinal Mooney and Sarasota Christian for the best scores from a non-qualifying team.
Earlier Monday, the Falcon boys set Saint Stephen’s up to sweep the 1A-16 tournament by ending a two-year district-championship drought. After falling short to the Blazers the past two years only to top them in the region tournament, the Falcons posted three of the day’s four best scores and finished with all five golfers shooting an 80 or better.
Alan Klenor led the way for Saint Stephen’s with a 75, followed by Massimo Mbetse and David Gao, who each shot a 76. The undefeated Falcons finished at 307 to edge Out-of-Door’s 311 and Mooney’s 316. Both the Thunder and Cougars advanced to the Class 1A-Region 6 tournament in Fort Myers, though, with their top-three finishes.
“It was a little bit closer than we would have liked to have been, but a win’s a win,” Saint Stephen’s head coach Matt Primrose said. “I think they all could have played better, but it was tough, it was windy. The course is tough.”
ODA’s Max Coutsolioutsos continued his strong season by posting the best score of the day. His 70 was right on track with his nine-hole scoring average of 35 from the regular season and he felt Monday’s performance stood up with some of his best from the fall.
“It’s a good round for me, for sure,” Coutsolioutsos said. “My putting has been a big improvement this year. That’s kind of what’s helped me get my scoring average down from the previous seasons.”
Bradenton Christian and SCS filled out the boys field, and although neither team will advance to next Monday’s region tournament, both are sending at least one golfer to Verandah Golf Club. Noah Cone and Jack Knowles shot an 84 and 86, respectively, for the Panthers to take the top two individual spots and Sarasota Christian’s Drew Alysworth shot a 104 to grab the third opening.