By MICHAEL BURWELL
Liberty-Benton’s boys golf team ran the table in Blanchard Valley Conference play during the regular season.
But the Eagles’ biggest and most challenging test will take place today.
Can L-B unseat Van Buren from the top of the BVC golf ranks and win the overall league title?
“I think our players have put in a lot of time working on their game over the years. It’s always nice to see them rewarded for their hard work, but at this point, we haven’t accomplished anything in the BVC,” L-B coach Steve Williman said. “No BVC goals have been accomplished and the final test is (today).
“We can’t control how the other teams are going to play. We’ve just got to be focused in, and play to our potential, and play to the best of our ability. Throughout my years of coaching golf, the road to the BVC golf championships have gone through Van Buren, so you need to take advantage of your opportunity when an opportunity presents itself.”
For the second straight year, the BVC golf championship will take place at Findlay Country Club. Teams will tee off at 11 a.m. today.
Van Buren has won or shared the last 12 league titles, 10 of them being outright crowns. The Black Knights shared the 2014 title with the Eagles and the 2008 title with Arcadia.
In 2014, L-B went 8-0 in the regular season but was edged 325-327 by Van Buren in the tournament as the Black Knights’ victory forced a share of the BVC title.
This season, L-B has posted an 11-1 overall record in matches, including 7-0 in the BVC. Van Buren finished 6-1 in league play, with its loss coming to the Eagles 172-184 on Sept. 4 at Sycamore Springs Golf Course.
Leipsic enters the BVC tournament in third (5-2 BVC), followed by Arcadia (4-3), Riverdale (3-4), North Baltimore (2-5) Arlington (1-6) and McComb (0-7).
L-B’s season has consisted of balanced play from its top five players.
Senior Seth Lasiter, who was medalist in the Eagles’ match against Van Buren with a 41, has averaged a 40.5 for 9-hole matches and just under 79 for 18-hole events this season. Sophomore Brice McDaniel has stepped in nicely with averages of 40.75 and 81.6, respectively.
Juniors Noah Brand (42, 86.4) and Patrick Streacker (42.75, 86.7) have also been key contributors, along with sophomore Austin Hanni-Wells (47.5, 94.7).
“It’s been really nice,” Brand said. “Brice has really stepped up and put a lot of good scores up for our team. And Austin, too. He’s been a great five-man. Patrick and I, we’ve struggled a little bit but the past couple matches, we’ve put up some good scores and I feel good about where we’re going into the BVC (tournament).”
The Eagles have proven how deep they are as well considering Michael Kotey, a senior and second-team all-BVC selection from a year ago, has been out for the season with an injury sustained at track camp.
“We had high expectations for this team at the start of the season, and we still had high expectations even after Michael’s injury,” Williman said. “But we have had players in different matches or tournaments that have stepped up for us. I think that’s the key to having success in any season is to have numerous kids that are capable of stepping up and leading your team at any time.”
Findlay Country Club, a par-72 layout with thick rough, fast greens and trees lining every fairway, will likely provide another tough test today. Van Buren (324) and Liberty-Benton (340) were the only schools a year ago to shoot under 375.
Experience on the course is something Lasiter and his teammates will look to count on.
“I’ve actually been a member at that course since I’ve been in seventh grade, so I know that course pretty well,” Lasiter said with a laugh. “I’ve been taking my teammates out there and we’ve been playing practice rounds. I’m not going to lie, it’s a tough course. The rough’s very thick there, but I think that they’ve been doing pretty well.”