NEW HANOVER — The goal of every golf team in the Pioneer Athletic Conference is to make the Final Four, something that Owen J. Roberts failed to do the past two seasons.
But the Wildcats have turned things around this year with improved play from their underclassmen and some strong senior leadership and they took a big step toward making the league playoffs on Thursday afternoon with a key road win, 205-212 over Boyertown at Hickory Valley Golf Club.
Four players shot 41 or better over nine holes for OJR (5-0), led by Maddie Sager's 39 and 41's by Jared Faust, Laura Hackman, and Connor Ruyak. Carlo Barrasse was low man for the Bears (3-2) with a 39, followed by a 40 by Lamar Saxon, and a 41 by Jim Hannon.
"We had a lot of sophomores last year who are coming up to be juniors,' said Faust, who qualified for the District 1 Tournament last season and missed the cut by just one stroke. "They're starting to flourish. They're getting a lot better. We have a couple seniors who are playing well.'
"The leadership on the team is strong,' added Wildcat coach Ted Snyder. "It's quiet, but strong ... Jared and Laura in particular. They set good examples. I think that really helps the whole team.'
OJR led by seven strokes after the first group came in on the strength of the 41's by Faust and Hackman and was still up by the same margin after the second group finished as Sager's 39 offset an identical score by Barrasse. There was no comeback chance for the Bears after that as four of the bottom five in the lineup shot 46 or higher.
"We struggle at the bottom,' said Boyertown coach Mark Takacs. "Lamar and Carlo hold their own and Jim had a nice match today. But three through eight, their overall average is 47. You can't win matches like that ... not in this league.'
On the other hand, the Wildcats have had a strong team effort to remain undefeated with four league matches to go.
"Jared Faust — he's been steady all year,' said Snyder. "Maddie stepped up and played really well today. You hope you can win your home matches and steal a couple on the road. If you can do that, you'll make the playoffs. It's always good to win on the road ... beat Boyertown.'
"We're just a solid team,' said Faust. "We try to put up sub-40 scores. I didn't play too well, but at least our team backed us up. That's basically what a team is. I had a seven on one hole, but I put it behind me. That's what you have to do, especially on nine holes.'
Another factor in the Wildcat win on Thursday might have been some extra practice at Hickory Valley over the weekend.
"A couple of our guys came over and played on the course,' said Snyder.
"My Dad, actually, brought us over,' added Faust. "Me and Connor and my brother Eric. It actually helped us out. I'd never played here before. This was only the second time I'd played the front nine. It helped a lot.'
As a result, the Wildcats are in excellent position for a playoff spot with only one match remaining against teams in the top half of the standings, that at home against undefeated Methacton next Tuesday.
The road will be much tougher for the Bears, who have playoff contenders Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley on the road remaining on their schedule.
"We're not sitting good right now,' said Takacs. "We have to go to Turtle Creek and Raven's Claw. We're going to need some help from other teams.'