The high school golf season in Ahwatukee Foothills always brings plenty of quality players and teams with state title aspirations.
With the contingent of players back in 2011 it should be a season that stays on par with previous years.
The Desert Vista boys squad, which finished second at the Ahwatukee Cup in late August, has a chance to be the best team from the area but the Thunder is still working on its success as a team.
"Although we have a significant amount of individual tournament experience and success, we have not won a lot of tournaments as a team," Thunder coach Paige Peterson said. "Winning, like any other sport, comes easier with experience."
Desert Vista brings back four quality players from last season's Division I state runner-up finish to Red Mountain.
Senior Cody McManus, who is committed to Pepperdine, will have trouble bettering last season. He was named the region player of the year and finished second at the state meet with a 5-under par, 139 at the North Course at Randolph Golf Complex in Tucson.
"He has incredible work ethic, dedication and commitment to help him achieve his goals in the game of golf," Peterson said.
Fellow senior Sean Buchanan, who averaged 72.8 in tournament play last season, will help keep the team in contention after being a first-team all-region pick last year.
The Thunder will also have some talented underclassmen as well with sophomores Matt Liringis and Colton Estevez pushing their senior teammates every step of the way.
Liringis finished fourth in the state as a freshman and was named second-team all-region, while Estevez was honorable mention all-region and averaged 73.1 in tournament action.
Buchanan and Estevez tied for 23 at the state tournament.
There are nine other players on the roster competing for the rest of the starting spots.
"This is one of the best teams in talent and depth we've had," said Peterson, who is in his fourth year as coach. "We are excited and look forward to another successful year. This team has high expectations and I will do everything I can to help them accomplish the individual and team goals."
Mountain Pointe is probably in the second tier of state contenders behind Red Mountain, Brophy, Hamilton and Desert Vista.
The Pride, who finished third at the Ahwatukee Cup, entered the state tournament as the favorites but ended up finishing fifth after a tough opening-round.
Junior Austin Fletcher, who finished 23rd at state, was last year's No. 3 and is ready to take on the No. 1 slot.
"He is a consistent golfer who can go low anytime out," Mountain Pointe coach Tony Ramseyer said. "We have some guys pushing him, but he is going to be very good for us."
The drop isn't much as Jake Britton, Brendan Wiberg, Josh Mendoza and the Harden brothers, Max and Ben, will give Mountain Pointe a consistent five scorers.
"We have had more experienced teams in the past but the talent is there," Ramseyer said.
The girls squads will be relying more on their senior class to keep them competitive as they look to rebound from last year's state finishes.
The Thunder, who finished 12th at state last season, return a strong senior trio in Kassidy Long-Goheen, Cady Espinoza and Maggie Black as they hope to break back into the top 10 at the end of the year.
All three played on the Junior Golf Association of Arizona this summer and Long-Goheen, who finished 30th at state last year, placed second in the Washington State Junior Championship over the summer.
"We have a very cohesive group," Thunder coach Pierson Hamilton said. "They seem to really like each other and the upperclassmen always take the newer players under their wing."
The Pride, who finished 16th at state last year, have two four-year seniors they will be counting on as Darian Spivey and Sami Springs, who finished 31st and 34th respectively, compete at the state tournament.
Spivey, who has committed to Northern Arizona, is the No. 1 after a successful summer and Springs is a consistently low scoring golfer.
Other players expected to fit into the top five scoring positions are sophomore Madi Woodward, sophomore Cassidy Chase, junior Ashley Franchetto and freshman Lauren Bluemears.
"They work well together as a team and individually," Pride coach Carol Wallace said. "They all believe that they can compete at the highest level. We have gelled well together over the last three weeks."
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