A young roster indicated to Desert Vista girls golf coach Pierson Hamilton that practice in between play was going to be essential to the season.

Practice rounds in between matches and tournaments provide a chance to work on certain aspects of a player's game that can make a difference on a scorecard.

The problem for the Thunder, who has just one senior, is there have been so many events on the schedule of late that some of the little things have slipped because practice time has been sparse.

"We haven't been as consistent as we need to be and a lot of that comes down to practice," Hamilton said. "We haven't been able to practice enough. Part of playing well is trusting what you do in practice rounds and bringing it into a match. Practice isn't just hitting balls and having fun. It will come with experience."

The good news is the results have been solid most of the season.

The Thunder finished second in the Tempe City tournament for the third straight year and showed some promise in the Antigua National High School Golf Invitational, held in Maricopa, despite finishing 15th out of 18 teams from around the country.

"In both tournaments we had better first days than second," Hamilton said. "That's a sign of inexperience, but overall we are playing well."

The top three players - Kassidy Long Goheen, Cady Espinoza and Annie Willert - have been pretty good as expected. They know they have to set the standard for the rest of the team.

"We need to be more focused in practice when we get that chance," said Willert, the lone senior that shot a career-low 83 on the first day of the Antigua tournament. "We have been playing a lot lately and need to make the most of our practice time. The younger players are doing some good things, but all of us have to be more consistent."

Consistency is the struggle with golf for just about anyone who isn't paid to play. Otherwise it wouldn't be called golf, right?

"It's part of the game," Espinoza said. "We have some time to get better and finish strong. We played some great teams (in the Antigua tournament) from around the country and there might have been some intimidation there but we came out of it as a better team."

The Thunder have played well enough to qualify for the state tournament already under the new rules (based on course ratings versus score), but the field will be tougher with fewer divisions (four down to two).

In other words, the team's inconsistency has to end if the Thunder wants to keep their string of top 10 finishes in the state tournament intact.

The second-half of the team is going to have to grow between now and the Division I state tournament at Dell Urich Golf Course in Tucson.

Junior Maggie Black, junior Danielle Le Blanc, sophomore Geraldine Torrella and freshman Camilla Wood have varying degrees of experience (Torrella started playing in July) and talent (Wood was called the team's best ball striker by Hamilton).

Hamilton is taking an even-keel approach to the final stretch of the season, knowing that all but one of the players will come back next season.

"Everyone has a great attitude and are having fun," he said. "We can be really good, but I don't think any of them have met their own personal expectations yet and that is the important thing. They are not satisfied and when they start meeting their own expectations than we can be more successful."

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