Photo by Bill Roseberry
Alton’s Courtney Hachmann fist pumps after sinking a putt at the Southwestern Conference Tournament victory for the Redbirds. The talented Birds have had continued success, winning the Class AA Champaign Centennial Sectional and qualifying for state on Friday and Saturday at Decatur’s Hickory Point Golf Club.
GODFREY — When the Alton High girls’ golf team won the Southwestern Conference championship last season, the 17-1 Redbirds reached new ground in program history.
Now, they are touching down in more fresh territory.
The 15-1 Redbirds, co-champs of the SWC this season, snared their first sectional championship last week. Alton shot a 334 score for top honors in the Champaign Centennial Class 2A Sectional at the University of Illinois Orange Course in Savoy. Next up are the IHSA finals this Friday and Saturday in Decatur.
“It’s a great feeling to be going to state and I think this was the team’s main goal since the start of the season,” AHS coach Carey Cappel said. “The team chemistry and the work ethic are incredible.”
You could make the case the Redbirds’ 2014 success was projected, if not outright expected. Seniors Tori Hays, Natalie Long and Courtney Hachmann are a formidable threesome and Cappel sensed good things would be in store for the Redbirds.
They haven’t disappointed her. In the past three weeks, the Redbirds have won a sectional, an SWC tournament title and finished second in a regional. Their lone defeat in dual matches was to Edwardsville at the Oak Brook Course, and that’s why the Birds shared the league title with the Tigers.
“It all really started when the seniors on this team were freshmen,” Cappel said. The Redbirds went 1-13 three years ago, yet began making some strides.
Cappel said, “We won one match with mainly a young team, but we were excited about it. Then we had a winning record (9-8) the next year.”
So the Redbirds were on their way to bigger and better things.
“It’s a mature group of girls and I’m so proud of them,” Cappel said. “You could see their growth, maturity, strength and perseverance. I knew there was going to be something special about this team — right from the start.”
Hachmann and Long saw the Redbirds develop in multiple ways. Mostly, it was about teamwork and the concerted desire to succeed.
“We knew we could do something like this,” Hachmann said about the sectional championship and team berth at state. “It’s up there with anything that we have done this season. We’ve really grown as a team.”
Long said, “It means everything. We have worked really hard this season, so it’s awesome to win the sectional and go to state.”
Cappel figures the Redbirds are going to savor their weekend at the Hickory Point Golf Club in Decatur. Hays qualified as an individual the last two years, but this time the entire AHS group is heading to the Macon County seat.
Mount Prospect is the defending 2A state champion and Chicagoland has dominated the team field the past five years. Marion snagged the IHSA title in 2008.
There’s no telling how the Redbirds will do, Cappel said. But they will come to play, she vowed.
“The goal is not to just go up there and drink tea and eat crumpets,” Cappel quipped. “The girls love competition. I’m happy that they are going to experience playing in a state tournament and all there is to it.”