The ending to last season was not what it hoped for, but Crystal Lake South came away proud with what it accomplished as the only local boys golf team still playing on the final weekend at Weibring Golf Course in Normal.
“It was such a great experience, especially with us being as close as we are, growing up together and being such close friends,” senior Ethan Wiggs said. “That state experience was what we were hoping for. That was our goal the whole year.”
South got off to a quick start on the first day of the Class 2A state tournament, but snow stopped play and canceled the first round. The tournament was shortened to one day, and South finished 10th with a team score of 325.
The Gators shot 316 and 312 at regionals and sectionals, respectively.
“We were all on pace to shoot in the 70s, and then the snow came down, which was pretty insane,” Wiggs said. “We looked at the leaderboard, and we’re like ‘Wow, we’re at the top.’ When they canceled the first day, it really bummed us out.”
“I didn’t feel like it was totally in our control,” senior John Lishchynsky said. “But knowing that we have another opportunity to go to state with this group is exciting. We lost two of our top scorers, but I think we’ll be just as strong.”
Casey Hunter and Griffin Coakley each graduated, leaving South with two big spots to fill. The seniors regularly were among the top four scorers for the Gators and were two of the team’s five All-Fox Valley Conference members, along with Will Stewart, Lishchynsky and Wiggs.
It will be hard to top one of the most successful seasons in team history, but the Gators believe they have all of the pieces to put together another long postseason run.
South opened the season Thursday with a runner-up finish at the Gators Boulder Ridge invite with a score of 327. Crystal Lake Central took first, recording a 325. Prairie Ridge (328) was third.
Last year, the Gators captured the FVC championship for the first time since 2010. They were runner-up at both regionals and sectionals to secure their first state trip in 16 years.
South went a perfect 8-0 in conference duals, setting the stage for a historic postseason.
“Winning conference was a big deal,” Stewart said. “You could tell by the way the coaches reacted, and they were so excited. It gave us a lot of confidence going into the postseason.”
The Gators knew they had a good shot at making history last year, but they still had to put together the scores to achieve a state berth for the fifth time in program history. They won the Class AA state championship in 1980 and were third in 1981 and 1998.
“It was kind of a shock,” junior Ricky Falbo said of making it to state. “We were all excited, and we knew we had the talent to get there, but it was still a shock. That was a pretty cool feeling.”
What do the Gators have in store for 2019?
“I always tell Casey and Griffin that we’re going to be better than last year, and they always tell me, ‘No way,’” Stewart said. “But we’ll see. ... State was definitely tough, but we still had a good time. We’ll see if we can do it again. Casey and Griffin set the expectations really high, and that’s not going to change this year.”