GIRLS GOLF PREVIEW: Failla’s young Riverhead team focuses on fundamentals, not scores

When Coach Steve Failla says the Riverhead High School girls golf team is young, he isn’t exaggerating.

The Blue Waves have no seniors and only one upperclassman returning, junior Aysha Ozymaz, who will be surrounded mostly by freshmen.

Failla, who took over for the retired Rich Gebhart, inherits a team that finished 2-8 in Suffolk County League III last year. But he hasn’t allowed that to diminish his enthusiasm or optimism entering a new season.

“Last year’s team, they weren’t very successful,” he said. “”You know what? We have a nice core returning. It’s really up and coming at Riverhead.

“We’re probably going to be starting four or five freshmen on any one day.”

Failla said he expects freshmen Kaylee Wells and Jackie Hulse to anchor the Blue Waves because they “worked very hard on their games in the off-season.”

Erin Kealy and Karyn Torre are other ninth-graders that Failla also expects to start.

“The remainder of the team will be battling for the final spots,” he said.

During the preseason, Failla has stressed to his team to work on fundamentals rather than worry about scores.

“They’ve looked good in practice,” he said. “Everyone has showed at one time or another a lot of potential in the game. We’re not keeping score out there.

“Our goal is to continue to grow, both individually and as a team, improve every day and have fun.”

The Blues Waves’ strengths are in numbers, said Failla, who has been encouraged that 11 girls tried out for the team. If he had more than 12, he would have had to make some cuts.

“Our numbers are growing,” he said. “There seems to be a little buzz and momentum in our program now.”

Failla said the Blue Waves’ biggest challenge is to put last year behind them and not let the little things bother the golfers.

“Golf is not a game that is neither won or lost,” he said. “It is played. You hit a bad shot, you have to have the confidence not to let it get to you. We have to be strong enough to handle it.”
The Blue Waves will find out soon enough. They will meet the Mount Sinai Mustangs in their League III opener at Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead on Tuesday.

“We’re so young,” Failla said. “I think there’s a bright future for these girls if they stay with it.”

Failla said he has reminded his players that learning golf could come in handy later on.

“I’ve coached quite a few sports,” he said. “Golf is a pretty unique sport. Golf is a sport you’ll play the rest of your life. A lot of business gets done on the golf course.”