The Duxbury girls golf team had three goals this season.
First, to win the Patriot League title.
Second, to qualify for the state championship for a second season in a row.
On Tuesday, the golfers were all smiles and laughs as they did so, earning the second-place trophy at the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s South Sectional tournament.
Now, there’s one final goal — win that state title this coming Monday.
Team members knew this would be the season to make a run for that title after losing just two seniors to graduation in 2016.
Last year’s experience gave the golfers a sense of what it would take to go all the way: preparing by drilling in advance on all aspects of the game, then mounting a full team effort at the tourney, no matter what type of golf was being played.
“The 2016 season was a way for us to understand what it’s like to play on a state championship stage,” said senior captain Mallory Poelaert. “This season has built us and prepared us for the state championship.”
The campaign was hampered by the wet, cold spring. What was dandy for ducks and runners kept the golfers from practicing their putting on actual greens, and the results were clear during the opening match against Barnstable. Consistently, the Duxbury girls three, four, and sometimes five putts on each green, and the result was a resounding loss.
After that rough start, Duxbury took off on a 13-match winning streak, ending the regular season with a 13-1 record that equaled last year’s mark. The run was good enough to give the team the Patriot League championship over Barnstable, the preseason favorites.
“These girls achieved every goal they made as an individual or a team, and I couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments,” said Jack Stoddard, the team’s head coach. “This season was led by our five senior captains, which helped us end our season the way we wanted.”
Those captains — Grace Herlihy, Olivia Siroonian, Meghan Doheny, Jillian Harrington and Poelaert — are in fact the only seniors on the team. Each of them, according to Stoddard, used past experience to get the team clicking on all cylinders.
In the South sectional Tuesday, Duxbury finished in second place with 383 strokes, behind Notre Dame Academy-Hingham (373) to qualify for the state tournament at Heritage Country Club in Charlton.
The team was led by Herlihy (87 strokes), junior Abigail Stetz (90), sophomore Maddie Edmonds (101), Poelaert (105), and Doheny (109). (Siroonian, at 100 strokes, was disqualified for violating a course regulation.)
“We need to be consistent like this sectionals tournament,’’ said Stetz, “to have any chance in competing for the state title.”
In addition to the team title, Herlihy and Stetz qualified to compete for the first time in their high school careers for the title of top individual golfer statewide. They’ll be facing 31 other girls vying for that honor.
Duxbury finished last — sixth out of six teams — at the 2016 tourney, but the team will have a key lesson under its collective belt coming into Monday: It has a better understanding of the different scoring system used in the postseason.
During the regular season, every team plays match play, which means if you win the hole you get a point. The golfer with the most points wins the match and a point for the team.
The mind-set is that if there’s a bad hole, it’s not the end of the world — it’s only costing you that one point. Each new hole represents a fresh start.
But under a rule change put into effect by the MIAA six years ago for the sectional and state matches, stroke play — continuous tallying of strokes from the beginning — holds sway. It’s what you see on the tube at most professional golf tournaments. Golfers add up the number of strokes after a match; whoever has the fewest wins. Similarly, teams add up all their golfers’ strokes; the winner is the team with the fewest.
“It doesn’t seem like the biggest thing to change on paper,” said Siroonian. “But it’s the biggest change to a player, because their mind-set has to change completely.”
That mind-set must become: Avoid disaster. Don’t put up a big number on a hole because it will stick with the golfer the entire round.
“Our team didn’t really think about the difference last season, and it hurt us in the postseason,” said Herlihy. “Now, even if it’s a match play, we have the mind-set of stroke play, so we’re prepared when it comes to the sectional and state tournaments.”
Duxbury will be facing off against five opponents Monday: Notre Dame Academy-Hingham, Wellesley, Hingham, Notre Dame Academy-Worcester, and Westborough/Algonquin.
“We have some tough competition to face at states, but I believe we’re ready for the challenge,” Doheny said. “We’ve been practicing all year for this moment, and we’re ready.”
Brian Mozey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.