Woodward Academy is threatening to claim permanent ownership of the Class AAAA girls golf championship. The War Eagles are gunning to defend their title and win for the third time in the last four years when the state tournament begins on Monday at Maple Ridge Golf Club in Columbus.
In a division that requires teams post three scores, Woodward Academy has the sort of quality and depth needed to defend its title and win the school’s seventh trophy.
The War Eagles had four girls break 80 in winning the Area 3 title: Aly Francis, Ayanna Habeel, Morgan Ellison and Teagan Fritts. All four were members of the team that won the rain-shortened title a year ago at Innsbruck in Helen and Habeel, a Southern Illinois signee, was medalist runner-up.
Woodward is tested, having emerged from a rugged Area 4, where it won by a shot over White County and by five over Blessed Trinity.
White County is led by defending state medalist Catie Craig, one of three girls – along with sister Caroline Craig and Grace Jones -- who shot 75 in the area tournament.
Blessed Trinity, led by Allie Kantor and Mckenzie Mages, and Marist, behind area medalist Woo Wade and Ava Tanzella, should also be in the mix.
Columbus won the Area 1 behind medalist Madeleine Krueger. North Oconee won Area 2, as Elena Denny took the medal. Central Carroll doesn’t have the third golfer needed, but sisters Loralie and Ainsley Cowart should be in the medalist hunt.
Class AAAAAAA: North Gwinnett won the Area 4 title and the Bulldogs will defend their state championship in what is expected to be a very competitive tournament. North has good depth, but is missing a dominant player. Alice Acosta, Lauren Maher and Chelsea McGovern are solid and battle tested. Main challengers: Lambert, which won Area 3, has two outstanding players in Iris Cao and Averi Cline and good depth. Mill Creek, second to North in Area 4, also has depth and a fine player in Tess Davenport. Colquitt County won Area 1 and East Coweta won Area 2. Roswell doesn’t have the depth needed to win, but Mercer-signee Emily Haigwood could challenge for medalist.
Class AAAAAA: Northview will defend its championship, but the Titans will likely have their hands full with an opponent from their own area. Northview was co-champions in Area 3 with Johns Creek and both proud programs bring loads of talent. Northview features Michelle Cao and Erica Scutt and Johns Creek is led by Kate Song, Amy Ng and Gen Wu. Main challengers: Chattahoochee was third in Area 3 behind Kimberly Shen and Maddy Schultz, but hasn’t found the needed third score. Valdosta won Area 1 behind medalist Grace Lansdell and Padgett Chitty. Dalton won Area 4.
Class AAAAA: Starr’s Mill has been dominant in this classification all year and has a great chance to win their third straight championship. Liza Eubanks, a Rollins signee, was the Area 2 medalist and has been strong all season. Teamates Ellie Camp, Mary Hunter and Julia Schafhauser have been consistently good all year. The Panthers will be tough to dethrone. Main challengers: Veterans has a top player in Mailey Buzzell, who shot 69 in the Area 1 tournament. Buford won Area 3 and Carrollton won Area 4.
Class AAA: They county three scores in Class AAA and higher, which doesn’t help defending champion Ruthland, which has two good players in sisters Eujin and Jenny Pyon, but youngsters in the other spots. Main challengers: The winners of the other three area tournaments are also pretty good – Pierce County, North Hall and Westminster. Each contender has at least three solid girls. Pierce features Area 2 medalist Sloan Lanier, North Hall is led by Area 3 medalist Mikayla Dubnik and Westminster features Ashley Jian. When it comes to individuals, Murray County’s Tori Owens is a player to watch. Owens works with Hall of Fame Instructor Lowell Fritz and has signed with Kennesaw State.
Class AA: St. Vincent’s Academy is back to defend their state championship, but the Saints didn’t even win the Area 1 championship. Emma Saunders leads St. Vincent’s. Main challengers: Metter, behind Kristen Crooms, dethroned St. Vincent’s in Area 1. But the main threats may be Bleckley County, which won Area 2 and has a strong duo in Lucy Wiegert and Brooke Krieg, and Bremen, which features Averi Shrews and Christian Williams Area 4 champion Elbert County is rock solid with Lily Johnson and Liza Banks.
Class A Private: Lake Oconee Academy won its first state title a year ago and is favored to repeat. The Area 4 champions are led by defending state medalist Katie Scheck and her sister, Kelly, who shot 71 to win the area tournament. Main challengers: Area 3 winner Gordon-Lee has three good players (Jessica Hickman, MaCall Miller, Cora Mount), as does Commerce (Cameron Ford, Kristin Tash, McKenzie McRee) and could contend if one of the Sheck sisters has a bad day.
Class A Public: Darlington returns to defend its championship, but it is far from a slam dunk. The Tigers feature Nea Leppanen, who was medalist in Area 4 by shooting 75. Main challengers: Atlanta International has a good duo in Meghna Grover (the Area 3 medalist) and Nora Anderson, Area 2 champion Tallulah Falls features Brinson Hall and Maggie Jackson, and Athens Academy has Meredith Bennett and Ally Buchanan.
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