Armed with a hungry, competitive group, Patterson High girls golf coach Jason Oliveira has high hopes for improvement entering this season on the links.
“We have a nice group of match-experienced players back,” said Oliveira, who is in his ninth season as coach. “But we still have a long way to go. We have a lot of room for improvement, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Last year, the Tigers placed fourth in the seven-team Western Athletic Conference. Patterson was 7-5 in league play and also finished fourth at the WAC Championship on Oct. 19 at Diablo Grande’s par-72 Ranch course.
“This year, we have the potential to make great strides and the desire to improve, which is one of the intangibles that you can’t teach,” Oliveira said.
Lost to graduation is four-year golfer Izabella Cruz, who a season ago earned the title of WAC champion, becoming Patterson High’s first conference medalist, when she carded a 91-stroke round in the league finals.
“Izabella was a leader on this squad for four years and is a great example of sportsmanship and school representation,” Oliveira said. “She put in a lot of practice time and made sure that she was very familiar with the courses we played, and I hope that her teammates learned from that example.”
Junior Sarah Sanchez, who joined Cruz at the 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Girls Golf Tournament at Lockeford Springs in Lodi, leads the school’s group of experienced golfers, with senior Veronica Benitez and junior Victorya Cruz also competing for top spots in the lineup.
“Sarah really came into her own during her sophomore year,” Oliveira said. “She will be our go-to golfer this year. She has a good foundation and a good feel of what the game is about.”
Oliveira also has high expectations for junior newcomer Dayna Hansen.
“Our youth and talent give us the ability to compete right away. But inexperience in match play could prove a problem,” Oliveira said. “If we don’t improve our mental toughness along the way, (our youth) might factor against us.”
He said he thought the team was ready for the challenge.
“I look forward to this year,” he said. “It’s a great group of girls that love the game of golf, and it should be fun.”
Oliveira expects Central Catholic High of Modesto to vie for the league title, but he’s counting on his team to make a push.
“Our team goals are to play good golf on a consistent basis and to challenge (the league’s) top contenders,” he said.
No matter how many wins Patterson posts, Oliveira believes his team’s success hinges on a continual pattern of improvement and on whether the girls enjoyed themselves.
“We want to get better on a day-to-day basis,” Oliveira said. “Our goal is to improve from the start of the year to the end of the year and be better on Tuesday than we were on Monday. More importantly, can we ask ourselves if we had a good time and if it was an enjoyable experience?”
Patterson opens the season Monday, Aug. 27, at home against Newman’s Orestimba High at Diablo Grande’s Ranch Course. Match time is 3:30 p.m.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org. At a glance
•COACH: Jason Oliveira, ninth season
•LAST YEAR: 7-5 Western Athletic Conference (fourth place)
•KEY LOSSES: Izabella Cruz
•KEY RETURNERS: Sarah Sanchez, Victorya Cruz, Veronica Benitez
•TOP NEWCOMERS: Dayna Hansen