The Riverhead High School girls golf team is going places — most notably to the Section XI Championships.
For the first time in the program’s eight-year history, Riverhead qualified for the Suffolk County tournament that will be played May 16 and 17 at Middle Island Country Club.
Who saw that coming?
Not Riverhead coach Steve Failla.
“I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t surprised,” Failla said. “We started out the season with a few question marks.”
They certainly did. Riverhead lost four players to graduation as well as a foreign-exchange student, who moved back to France. Only three players returned from last year with golf experience.
Yet, several newcomers have made a difference: eighth-grader Katie Moore, junior Sharrise Martin and senior Karen Garcia.
“The three of them have exceeded expectations for first-year golfers,” said Failla.
They have helped the Blue Waves to an 8-1 record, overall and in League III, where Riverhead sits in second place behind Sachem (11-0, 11-0).
With three matches remaining, Riverhead already has the most single-season wins in its history, surpassing the five it picked up in 2013, according to Failla.
Moore has emerged as the No. 1 player on the team, shooting in the low- to mid-40s. Martin and Garcia round out the lineup at the Nos. 5 and 6 spots. The middle of the lineup has sophomore Alexandra Kozakiewicz and juniors Aby Brophy and Kristen Kinghan.
Seventh-grader Kimberly Horvat, junior Jen Ramos and senior Sophia Wehunt are also on the team.
“No one person has gotten vastly superior to last year,” Failla said. “They’ve all just gotten a little bit better.”
Riverhead could be considered the surprise team of League III, and that makes the team’s success even sweeter.
“The program’s still relatively young, and the girls have stuck together through the tough times,” Failla said. “They’re continuing to play. Golf is a sport where you’re not going to walk out and be great. It will definitely test anybody’s patience and dedication. These girls have answered the challenge.”
“I was so happy for them because they’ve earned it,” he said of qualifying for the sectional tournament. “They were around for the tough times. They kept working, and that’s good advice for any golfer.”