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University determined to add title to record-breaking season
Just the thought of it can strike fear into University junior Samantha Cabunag.
One wayward drive or one missed putt can change the course of an entire season.
Cabunag witnessed the heartbreak that an ill-timed mistake can cause last season.
She helped the Trojans post a 392 in the CIF-SS Southern Team Divisional. La Serna won with a 391.
“I remember one of our girls, a senior Susan (Lee). She came out and told me that that was going to haunt her every single day,” Cabunag said. “One shot could have changed everything. I think that motivated us for this year in some way.”
That drive to avoid revisting last year’s disappointment has turned the Trojans into the favorite to win the CIF-SS Southern Team Divisional on Monday, and perhaps made them the best girls golf team in county history.
The Trojans have broken 180 three times, set a school record at Strawberry Farms Golf Course and successfully defended their championship at the Long Beach Wilson Invitational, shooting a 298 at Recreation Park Golf Course to become the only team in the field to break 300.
“It (the season) couldn’t be any better,” University coach Kevin Kasper said. “But what we really want to make sure that we do is make a good strong showing at CIF because we feel like if we can shoot the kinds of scores that we are capable of, we should have a really good chance. That would be a cap to a really good season.”
Early in the season, the Trojans revealed their championship potential when they finished 1-over-par as a team for a 28-stroke victory against Aliso Niguel. Freshman Coco Yang, Nodoka Honda, Dana Choi and Cabunag each posted an even-par 35 to help the Trojans card a 176 in the triumph at Aliso Creek Golf Course.
Breaking 180, as the Trojans did that day, is unusual for a girls golf team. But University was just getting started.
Almost a month after that performance, the Trojans set a school record by finishing 4-under-par as a team at Strawberry Farms Golf Course to beat Pacific Coast League rival Corona del Mar, 176-200. Honda medaled that afternoon by shooting a 5-under 31
In the team’s next match, University fired a 1-under-par 179 at Oak Creek Golf Club to defeat Northwood. They did it without Cabunag, arguably the Trojans’ No. 1 player. Yang and Honda stepped up in her absence, sharing medalist honors by posting a 2-under 34.
“I think that (the 170s) shows the depth of our team,” Kasper said. “Our depth keeps us on the cusp where on any given day if three or four of them go really low like they are capable of, that brings us down into the 170s. It really comes back to the depth.”
Four of University’s five varsity regulars have nine-hole scoring averages under 40. Honda, Cabunag, Choi and Yang all finished the regular season at 37.0. Those five players have combined to earn 16 of the Trojans’ 17 medals this season. Yang leads the way with six followed by Choi (4), Cabunag (3) and Honda (3).
Kasper had a feeling this was going to be a special season. During the summer, he said, the girls worked hard on the range and played a lot of junior tournaments.
“Everything that we have done has built up to this, the 170s three times,” Canbunag said. “We have always been confident. It is just a matter of what are we going to do now.”
The next chapter the Trojans in this historic season could be a CIF championship. The Trojans have the talent and the experience to pull it off.
Cabunag, Choi, Honda and Kristin Shea played in the Southern Team Divisional last season, and they are expected to be among the six starters Monday at Lakewood Country Club.
“It is probably not the disappointment of losing by one stroke (last season) that has been a motivating factor,” Kasper said. “The fact that we were right there is motivating. What has caused these girls to work so hard is we were right there, and we know what we can accomplish it right now. That is what motivated them and made them work so hard. What is cool about this year is this has been a team effort.”
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