LAND O’LAKES — The Sunshine Athletic Conference championship has become habit-forming for Mitchell, and first-year coach Tom Stratman said his players wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Mustangs dominated Tuesday’s SAC tournament at The Groves, easily outdistancing a 10-team field with a score of 286. Runnerup Zephyrhills finished well behind at 344 and Pasco took third (355).
“I think the girls put a lot of pressure on themselves to uphold that tradition,” Stratman said. “They respond to it in a positive way.”
For the Mustangs, that meant placing four golfers among the top five. Individual medalist Rebecca Van Etten shot 65 to win a second straight SAC title. Emma Fivecoat took third at 72, Nina Argento fourth (74) and Ashley Richardson fifth (75).
Van Etten, Fivecoat and Argento are seniors who Stratman said lead by example with hard work, not to mention a shared goal of surpassing last season’s fifth-place finish at regionals and a seventh at states two years ago.
“Each one of them is a leader,” Stratman said. “They know what’s expected. They set the team agenda.”
Stratman noted that Richardson, a sophomore, is waiting in the wings to take on more of a leadership role next year.
As for the rest of the field in Tuesday’s tournament, Pasco’s Kellianne May was runnerup, two strokes behind Van Etten.
Zephyrhills had a trio among the top 10 finishers. Sydney Owens shot 77 to place sixth, and teammates Tiffany Bahr and Karisten Deem placed seventh and eighth with rounds of 86 and 87.
Zephyrhills coach Ken Burgess and his players conceded the title to Mitchell and lauded his players for their second-place finish.
“If we couldn’t win it, we wanted to be runnersup,” he said.
Added Bahr: “I’m glad about our score. We played our best today.”
Rounding out the top 10: Ashley Arrington, Fivay, 90; and a tie for 10th at 91 between River Ridge’s Heather Stewart and Cassidi Fernando of Wiregrass Ranch.