By BRETT MARSHALL
The Syracuse High School girls golf team had counted on its team depth all season as it swept aside most of its competition at the Class 3-2-1A level.
On Monday, the Lady Bulldogs relied on the same depth in accomplishing a first for the school — claiming the 3-2-1A girls state championship on a cold, windswept day at Emporia Municipal Golf Course.
They did it with a team score of 398, 10 strokes clear of runner-up Hoisington's 408. Silver Lake was third at 411. Defending champion Holcomb placed 10th at 454.
Senior Madison Brown's 95 led the way for coach Rick Mathias' squad, and that also left her in a tie for third where she lost in a sudden death playoff. Alia Neubrandt's 98 tied her for ninth, Stephanie Geven was 15th with a 100 and Kiah Rash shot 105 for the Syracuse scores that figured into the team title. Rachel Platt and Sydney Brown finished at 107 and 116.
"It was a tough day, but this feels great," Mathias said. "They did it with class and they had one goal in mind and that was to finish the season strong. We knew we had a shot at it, and today was probably the calmest I've ever been because the girls were so focused and relaxed."
Mathias, a veteran of more than 20 years of coaching golf at SHS, said this first girls team title has a different feel than the two boys team crowns that were captured in 1998 and 1999.
"My first boys team, my son was playing and had to make a putt for us to win," Mathias said. "It's just different. They're both great feelings, but just different. This team was the hardest working, most dedicated bunch I've ever coached."
After nine holes, the Lady Bulldogs were four shots in front of Goodland, but the Lady Cowgirls faded on the back nine while Syracuse matched its front nine total of 199 to finish at 398.
"The girls just kept playing one shot at a time and it was just so cool to watch how they handled everything," Mathias said.
For Brown, the team championship capped off her four-year career in a most exciting way.
"It feels great because we worked so hard," Brown said. "It's like a cherry on top of everything. It was cold, pretty windy and the course played long. The key today was placing your drives well and then your short game on the greens."
Mathias said he had been cautiously confident about the team's chances of winning prior to Monday's round.
"I knew if we played well, we'd be right in the thick of it," Mathias said. "You don't celebrate it until the scores have all come in. When we saw on the scoreboard that we had won, it was definitely a moment you had to take in."
See Results on Scoreboard, Page B2.