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Tigers play to capabilities at sectional meet

New Richmond junior Maggie Veenendall was the top player in the Middle Border Conference for the second straight season. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

At the WIAA Division 1 golf sectional meet played last Monday at The Ridges Golf Club in Wisconsin Rapids, the New Richmond girls ranked fifth among the eight teams competing in the meet.

While the Tigers fell short of qualifying for the state tournament, New Richmond coach Neal Ziller had no qualms with how the Tigers played on the difficult Ridges course.

"Shooting 397 on that course was pretty good," Ziller said. "We played better than I expected."

The Tigers ran up against a talented group of Division 1 teams at the sectional meet. Onalaska won the sectional title with a 359 score. Eau Claire Memorial was the second sectional qualifier, shooting 365 to edge Stevens Point for the final spot to qualify for state.

The Tiger coaches were hoping junior Maggie Veenendall would be able to advance to state as an individual, but she fell five strokes short of that goal. Veenendall shot an 89, when the highest score to be taken for the state tournament from the sectional ended up being an 84. It's the third straight close call for Veenendall, narrowly missing being a state qualifier in all of her three high school seasons.

Veenendall suffered a leg injury less than a month before the sectional tournament. She took one match off to rest the injury, playing with her leg in a brace in each of the matches the rest of the season. While Veenendall was still playing well at the end of the season, she wasn't matching the scores she posted before the injury.

"Her difficulties started when she injured her knee," Ziller said. "I think the injury played a role, she was maybe favoring that left knee again."

While Ziller felt bad for Veenendall, he said she'll get to make one more run at reaching the state tournament. With the team's top two players, Veenendall and Ashley Swiggum being juniors, the Tigers have talent ready to return. And that includes sophomore Jessica Hagman, who missed the season with an injury after finishing second in the conference standings as a freshman.

Ziller said there are a number of teams who could be in the mix at the sectional meet, but said most of the contenders like Eau Claire Memorial, River Falls, Stevens Point and Tomah are being hit harder by graduation than the Tigers.

"With who we have coming back, I think we have the edge," Ziller said.

Ziller admired the resilience the team showed after Hagman's injury.

"In my career, I've never had a girl injured. These girls really responded. It was fun watching them work hard, trying to rise to the next level."

Ziller said he thought Swiggum and seniors Rebecca Ziller, Molly Hassler and Elise Kolbeck all played up to their abilities at the sectional meet. Swiggum shot a 98, Ziller a 102, Kolbeck a 108 and Hassler a 111.

The Ridges is a very exacting golf course, according to Ziller. He called it a "target golf course" where players had to put each shot in a specific area, or they wouldn't have a good angle at their target for the next shot. He said the Tigers played at The Ridges for a sectional tournament in 2005, so he knew what to expect and tried to prepare the girls the challenge that was ahead of them.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for more than 30 years.

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