Having produced something a Plant City Raiders girls golf team hadn't seen in three seasons — a dual-match loss — resulted in an unexpected reaction from the squad Monday.
And their head coach loved it.
"We're on the bus ride home, and the girls are all figuring out how they can make up the 16 strokes the next time they play Steinbrenner," Meg Jordan said. "I have one of my freshmen, Kaylee (McIntosh), call me at 8 the next morning saying 'Coach, I'll get us eight strokes myself.' "
Plant City was bound to take a little bit of a dip this season. It's what happens when the 2011 squad was led by three seniors who are now playing in college. With Kelsey Jensen, Belinda George and Shelby Johnson leading the way, the Raiders finished fifth at the Class 2A state meet, four shots out of third.
They even out-scored the state champ Niceville on the second day of the 36-hole event.
But the appearance of McIntosh and another ninth-grader, Kendall Johnson, and that supposed Raider dropoff doesn't look so precipitous.
"I've got three guaranteed Division I players on my team," Jordan declares without a trace of doubt.
That third standout is the key.
Kellyanne Hurst, the fourth unheralded member of last year's team, is back and better.
"Everything I've been trying to do and say the last 10 years (as coach), it's now happening on its own," Jordan said, referring to Hurst's new command.
Jordan explains this team has the dream elements of competitiveness, togetherness and the desire to put in the work.
Hurst put in plenty of good work over the summer, playing in eight tournaments on the MidFlorida Junior Golf Tour.
She won six of them.
Playing nine holes, the normal high school regular-season match, is almost like a day at the beach. Half of Hurst's summer tournaments were 36-hole events. Her best round was a 74 .
With that experience Hurst, a junior, is more unflappable on the course and also ready to lead off the course.
"Last year, the seniors all helped me out, but this year I'm more of a leader. I like doing that," Hurst said. "Whether one of the girls are nervous, or whatever, I'm glad to help."
Credit Jordan for scheduling Steinbrenner, (the two teams play again Wednesday at Walden Lake) which might be the strongest team in the Raiders' district. It certainly put the perfect regular-season mark at risk, but Jordan sees a long-term benefit
"I don't want to steer away from the better teams," she said. "By the time we've played our 13 matches and get to the district tournament (in October), those freshmen will have more experience."
Darek Sharp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.