High School Sports

Tough competition, tougher course await Saint Stephen's girls third straight state golf trip

For the third straight year, Michelle and Vanessa Yan are playing in the state golf tournament.

As Saint Stephen's golfers, the sisters have been a part of two top-five team finishes.

Alongside Natalie Pleyrova -- who earned the No. 1 playing position by shooting a 75 at region competition -- Nupur Mathur and Kendall Miller, the Yans are back at this week's Class 1A girls state golf tournament.

This year's tournament, though, will feature some stout competition as the Falcons earned a regional title last week by one shot to earn a trip to states, which begins Tuesday at Mission Inn's El Campeon course in Howey-in-the-Hills.

"It's a relatively tight course," Saint Stephen's girls golf coach Letitia Zilar said. "Very undulating and you need to be able to keep the ball in play."

For Saint Stephen's to vie for the state title, Zilar said the Falcons will need Mathur or Miller, who is in her first year with the team, to score in the 80s as the top three players (Pleyrova and the Yans) have posted low rounds throughout the season.

"They're going to have to shoot lights out ... for us to win," said Zilar of Mathur and Miller's performances keying the Falcons this week. "Natalie or Vanessa or Michelle have the potential to take the tournament."

Based off the regional results, the Falcons are facing an uphill battle as six of the other seven regional champs had team scores lower than the 348 that Saint Stephen's

posted in Naples last week for its regional crown.

However, the Falcons are heading to the state tournament loaded with experience as four of the five members played last year, while the Yan sisters played Mission Inn's Las Colinas course two years ago in the state finals.

Also aiding this year's event is the faster nature of the greens at Mission Inn compared to what Saint Stephen's experienced at the regional held at Hibiscus Golf Club.

"All of them have been working on their putting," Zilar said. "This is a very different course than what they are used to playing on for the year. So this will be a huge tell-tale for everybody."

Another key for the Falcons is having a sharp mental game as the rigors of 36 holes between Tuesday and Wednesday can affect even the most seasoned player.

"Golf is 90 percent mental, and they just have to really bring out the positive attitude," Zilar said. "If they have one bad shot. ... you have to be able to put that behind you and move on."

The Falcons are the lone team competing in the state tournament, but not the only players in the field representing the area.

Out-of-Door Academy's Wendy Tan fired a 75 at the region tourney to secure an individual qualifying berth.

And in Class 3A, which is held at Deer Island Golf and Lake Club in Tavares, Manatee sisters Gianna and Gabrielle Tomeo are competing.

The Tomeos collected individual berths at the regional held at Bradenton Country Club last week.

CLASS 1A

Who: Saint Stephen's team and Out-of-Door Academy's Wendy Tan

When: Tuesday and Wednesday

Where: Mission Inn's El Campeon course, Howey-in-the-Hills

CLASS 3A

Who: Manatee's Gianna Tomeo and Gabrielle Tomeo

When: Tuesday and Wednesday

Where: Deer Island Golf and Lake Club, Tavares

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