WEST LAFAYETTE - The Potters are primed and ready.
East Liverpool earned its fourth tournament win of the season on Saturday at the Eastern District Open at River Greens Golf Course.
The victory was especially significant considering that the Potters open the Division II sectional tournament today at the very same course.
East Liverpool’s Isaac Davidson (left) and Blake Prince lead the Potters into postseason play beginning today. (Photo by Jimmy?Joe Savage)
"It was really nice that we got a chance to play the course in a tournament atmosphere," East Liverpool coach Ben Wright said. "Hopefully, that's a good indication of how we'll play on Monday."
The Potters won Saturday's action with a 311 team score which was seven strokes better than St. Clairsville and Carrollton who both came in at 318. Coshocton was next at 327, followed by Garaway at 332.
East Liverpool junior Blake Prince was crowned the low medalist in the tournament with a 2-under 70. He was followed for the Potters by Joey Cilone (74), Alex Watson (82) and Isaac Davidson (85).
Name Matchplay Tournament
Blake Prince 36.71 73.5
Isaac Davidson 37.14 77.16
Joey Cilone 39 77.8
Alex Watson 41 80
Ryian Burson 42.7 88
Coach Wright on the Potters:
Blake Prince (junior): "I think his strength is his consistency. He never seems to get thrown off his game. If he has a bad hole, he knows he can get a shot back. He's definitely the leader of our team."
Joey Cilone (junior): "Joey has really matured in the last year. Before, he had some trouble turning things around. Now, he handles things a lot better. He's playing well at the right time for us. I think his mental game has finally caught up to his abilities."
Isaac Davidson (freshman): "Being just a freshman, I couldn't be happier with Isaac. He's brought quality depth to our team. He might be the most competitive person I've ever seen. I guarantee he'll be out on the course until dark tonight trying to fine tune things."
Alex Watson (senior): "He brings a lot of calm at times to our younger kids. He has experience on all these courses over four years. I still don't think we've seen his best yet. I think he's in position to put up a really low score on Monday."
Ryian Burson (junior): "I didn't see Ryian until the first day of practice. He's our wild card. He gives us even more depth. His score can step right in there for us. He allows us to go deeper if someone has an off day."
Matt Hilditch (junior): "Matt played in every tournament for us last year. As a sixth man, he's so valuable to us. There's not many teams around that can say they have a No. 6 as strong as we do. When he's on, he's as good as anybody."
The list of achievements by the East Liverpool golf team this season is lengthy and impressive.
The Potters finished the season with a 14-0 match play record. Their overall record, including tournaments, is an astounding 88-2. They won four of the five tournaments they entered including the Wooster Park Mazda Invitational, Cardinal Classic, Saturday's Eastern District Open and the school's first ever OVAC Class 4A championship. The only tournament the Potters didn't win was Spring Hills where the team finished third overall.
Now, the Potters have even bigger goals in mind.
East Liverpool has advanced past sectional play in each of the past three seasons. However, the Potters have come up short of their ultimate goal at the district level each time.
"We seem to keep getting to the same point and kind of hitting a wall," Wright said.
This year could be a different story.
The Potters are the clear favorites coming into sectional play today at the par-72 River Greens course that seems tailored fitted to the team's accurate play.
"The big challenge at this course is to hit the ball straight," Wright said. "It's an older course with pines lining the sides. You can get stuck in there pretty easily if you're not hitting the ball where you want to. I think this course plays into our hands nicely."
Prince seemed more than comfortable on Saturday and is looking to make amends for some near misses in years past. The junior has missed qualifying for the state tournament in each of the past two seasons by just one shot.
"I think as a freshman he took it a little better because he knew he had more chances," Wright said. "But after it happens a second time by one shot, it starts to bother you. This has been his goal all year. His focus is there."
The Potters are set to tee off at 12:30 p.m. today. A total of 23 schools will be competing in the tournament with the top six teams and top six individuals not on a qualifying team advancing to the district tournament Oct. 3 at Granville Golf Club.
"I think handling the pressure is one of the strengths of this team," Wright said. "We only have one senior (Watson), but we have guys that have been playing in big tournaments for a long time now. Other teams might have more seniors, but we may actually have an experience advantage on them."
The weather appears to be working in the Potters' favor as well. Forecasts for West Layfayette are calling for sunny skies with a high temperature of 66 degrees.
"The weather can definitely have an impact of determining who moves on," Wright said. "In my mind, when the weather is good the best teams move on and this is usually when we tend to get nasty weather."
With all of the accomplishments
Wright said he has been seeing a lot more well wishers in recent days due to the Potters' success. "Every time we come back from a tournament, people are always asking how we're doing," he said. "Everybody's aware of how good these kids are doing. They're starting to realize that this team is doing things that haven't been done here before."
Expectations are high for East Liverpool. The ultimate goal is the state tournament which will be held Oct. 12-13 at Ohio State's Scarlet Golf Course in Columbus.
While Wright said he believes the sky is the limit for this team, his focus is on the tournament at hand.
"Golf is a funny game," he said. "You've got to go out and play your best. We know we've got to come out and have a good day. There's no second chances at this point."
NOTES: At the district tournament, the top two teams and top two individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state tournament. Last year's district champion was St. Clairsville. The Potters have bested St. Clairsville in two tournaments this season, while the Red Devils got the upper hand once at Spring Hills where St. Clairsville was first, Wheeling Park second and East Liverpool third.