Socorro brings high hopes and high expectations to state

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The word “dominant” gets thrown around a lot in the world of sports. Almost every week it seems there’s a fresh, new and unstoppable athlete or team that the world should feel blessed to bear witness to.

The word “consistent” also gets tossed around quite a bit, but it’s somewhat rare that those two words are used in the same conservation.

Unless of course the conversation is about the Socorro Lady Warrior’s golf team.

Socorro has in fact consistently dominated Class 1-3A girls golf in recent years as they’ve reeled off five straight state championships, and they’re the favorite to bring home a sixth from Albuquerque next week.

“We’ve had an excellent season,” girl’s head coach Margaret Stanley said. “We’ve played well. Our averages have gone down greatly this year.”

Stanley said that some of the girls on Socorro’s squad have improved their averages by as many as 20 shots just this season, a stat that showcases the depth and amount of talent this year’s team possesses.

“Even to make the No. 5 spot on the team, I had four girls battling for that this year,” Stanley said. “It’s very healthy competition.”

In addition to another team title, the Lady Warriors will be looking to hoist the individual title for the third consecutive year. Since the last two champions are still on the team, the likeliness of that happening is also pretty high. Shania Berger won it all in 2011 and Kristen Cline did the same in 2010, and both girls are on a roll after notching impressive scores in last Monday’s District 3-3A Championship. Cline took first place after shooting a 75 and Berger came in second, just one stroke off of the pace at 76.

Odds are that those two names will be high up on the leaderboard at the end of Tuesday’s round.

“It’s a good battle between the two of them,” Stanley said.

Also favoring the Lady Warrior’s cause is that state competition will be held at the University of New Mexico Golf Course, one that Stanley and her team are quite familiar with. Socorro won the state championship in 2009 and 2010 when it was hosted at UNM.

“We’re very comfortable at UNM,” Stanley said. “We’ve played it twice this year and several times in the past years. I think we’re very confident on that course.”

With winning, however, also comes lofty expectations, and just because Socorro’s the favorite going in, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily in for a day at the beach. While Berger and Cline have been in this position before, they both admitted that they put a lot of pressure on themselves.

“I really want to do well and excel,” Berger said. “I’m going to try and do my best this weekend and hopefully bring home another win.”

Obviously nothing in golf is ever set in stone, but chances are good that Socorro High School will have to clear a little bit more space on their trophy shelf come Tuesday.

While the girls team is operating with a wealth of state tournament experience, the boys team is staring straight at the complete opposite. Of the five players heading to Albuquerque with Warriors head coach Russell Moore, four of them will be competing for a state title for the very first time.

In addition, the length of UNM’s course definitely won’t make things easy for any of Socorro’s three eighth graders.

“Obviously because it is a little bit longer, it’s probably going to be a little more difficult for us,” Moore said.

He also knows that his young squad’s short game is going to have to be a little better than normal due to the course’s length, but that’s not something he has failed to address.

“That’s what we’ve been working on all year, so I have full confidence that they’ll do well,” he said.

The player that the Warriors will look to for leadership comes in the form of Will Schaffer, a veteran of the course at UNM who took home his own first place district trophy last week. He shot a three-over-par 75 at New Mexico Tech Golf Course, three strokes better than Ruidoso’s Tony Nanz, one of the competitors he’ll face next week.

As for Schaffer’s leadership style and attitude toward his younger teammates, it’s one that many golfers probably with they could inherit.

“Regardless of whether they have a good round or a bad round, life goes on,” he said. “I let them know that’s it going to feel different, but that it ends up being like any other round.”

Schaffer does tend to keep a calm demeanor and have a good time on the course, but doesn’t mean he won’t bring his best stuff with him. “I’d like to win it, of course. That would be nice,” he said.

Tee-off times for the 2012 Class 1-3A State Championship in Albuquerque begin Monday morning at 7:30.