Mount St. Joseph golfers gather around their trophy after winning a major team tournament in Harrisburg on September 13.

Mount St. Joseph golfers gather around their trophy after winning a major team tournament in Harrisburg on September 13.

by Tom Utescher

Pretty much the perpetual champion in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies and currently the defending Class AAA (large school) PIAA state champ, the Mount St. Joseph Academy golf squad shows no signs of faltering this fall.

With only two league matches left on the AACA regular-season schedule, the Magic have a 9-0 record, and it’s a good bet that they’ll capture their 12th straight league title. Although they have mixed up their line-up for some of these matches, not always fielding all of their top players, their smallest margin of victory has been 36 strokes, and they’ve won three bouts by more than 70.

One of the five girls who were in the official line-up for the 2013 state championships has graduated, along with two other seniors from last year’s squad. Returning from the States ensemble are 2014 senior co-captains Isabella DiLisio and Maggie Schoeller, and juniors Megan Bray and Joanie Gannon. A number of younger Mounties all returned with stronger skills, particularly sophomore Caitlin Mahon, who is now among the top golfers on the team.

“It’s great to see a core of younger players who are stepping up and who are able to contribute,” said Schoeller. “This is my last year, but I want to see the team do well in the future.”

“I think that what we’ve done so far this season has helped our confidence,” suggested DiLisio, who is both the defending PIAA individual champion and the 2014 Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur champion. “When we play 18 holes [the standard high school matches are nine holes] the majority of our team breaks 100, which is good for 15 girls.”

Taking a break from the school team schedule last week, the Mounties turned out for the individual PIAA District 1 qualifiers, played on the par-70 course at Spring Hollow Golf Club in Chester County. Five team members made the cut for the District Championships on October 6 and 7. DiLisio shot a three-under 67, Gannon had a 78, and Bray, Mahon, and Schoeller each scored an 82.

For the team as a whole, the highlight of the season so far was a trip out to Harrisburg on September 13, when Mount St. Joe won the 2014 Central Dauphin Girls Golf Classic at par-72 Dauphin Highlands. The field included six full varsity teams from various parts of the state, along with several dozen strong golfers entered as individuals.

The Mount not only won the team title with a score of 332 (in a play-five, count-four arrangement), but the school also sent out a “B” team which finished third with a tally of 366. In between the two, with a 349, was Central Valley High School (located near Pittsburgh), the defending Class AA state champion.

MSJ’s DiLisio, who made a verbal commitment to the University of Notre Dame as a junior, was the individual winner, right on par with a 72. The tourney had been rained out in 2013, but in 2012 DiLisio also was the medalist, coming in at par (73) on a different course.

“It was pretty reassuring for us,” she said. “We knew that everyone on our team had improved from last year, and it was nice to come out to a strong tournament and see actually see the result. There were a few good girls there from Pittsburgh, so it was good for me to play against them.”

Schoeller was second for the Magic and ninth overall with an 83. The other scorers from the winning group were Mahon, with an 85, and Gannon, with a 92.

Sophomore Alex Natale was also in the first quintet, scoring a 102.

From their “B” team at the mid-state event, the Magic received scores of 91 from Bray and from fellow juniors Mara Boston and Claire Brown, and a 93 from freshman Maya Trujillo. The fifth in this group was sophomore Alex Mercader, who scored a 96. Two other Mounties played on an individual basis, senior Ann Shuck (104) and sophomore Caitlyn Bell (107).

“It was important for us to play out there and it was exciting to see both teams do so well,” Schoeller stated. “Something that’s been an issue in the past is that we play a lot of league matches that aren’t that competitive, and then we go right into Districts. It’s a big adjustment, because all of a sudden the teams are a lot better.

“Central Dauphin helped prepare us for that,” she continued. “It sort of simulated the environment of Districts because you had the same format. You had five players and four scorers and you played 18 holes, which is a lot different from our regular nine-hole matches.”

An excellent student, Schoeller will pick her future home from a group of top-tier universities. She’s long been drawn to mathematics, and also enjoys her French courses at the Mount, although she hasn’t determined how or if she’ll combine the two interests.

For her last season of high school golf, Schoeller said, “I’ve been trying to focus on my short game from about 50 yards in and also my putting, because those are the places where you can make up the most strokes the most easily. I’ve been hitting a lot of midrange shots from 50 yards, and a lot of putts from six to 10 feet.”

Fellow senior DiLisio had been attracting interest from Notre Dame (and many other schools) for some time, but it was her official visit to South Bend that resulted in a commitment.

She explained, “You hear of people visiting a certain college and they just know that it’s the right place for them – that’s the way it was for me. I loved the team, I loved the campus and the golf facilities.”

Like her co-captain, DiLisio likes math, and she’s considering a major in finance.

“Notre Dame’s business school is ranked number one in the country right now, so it’s hard to go wrong with a degree from there,” she pointed out. “You can’t be sure how things are going to go with golf, so it’s important to have a good education behind you.”

Out on the course, she said, “One thing I’ve been noticing this year is that even on my off-days, or when I don’t have my “A” game, I’m still able to score well and not have my score blow up. At the District qualifier, I can think of a lot of strokes I left out there that I should have made, but I still was able to go three-under. I think I’m maturing and becoming a more consistent golfer, and when I really learn how to get all aspects of my game right on the same day, I can play even better.”

She’s also enjoying her role as a team captain this fall.

“It’s awesome, because I love my team, and it’s great to be able to help the younger girls and give them some guidance.”

Schoeller agrees, noting “All the girls get along, and everyone is excited to be there every day. As a captain, I think it’s important to lead by example, and also to set a nice tone where the girls can really approach you and feel comfortable with you.”

If the Magic remain on a roll through the District 1 tournament at the start of next month, they will play in the PIAA Eastern Regional Championships with the goal of advancing to the state tournament in York, Pa. on October 20-22.