JACKSON TWP — How low can they go?
Members of Seneca Valley's boys golf team have consistently answered that question with very impressive scores this season.
The Raiders' average of 193 strokes per match paved the way to a share of the Section 3-AAA championship with Pine-Richland.
SV (14-1, 9-1) features four golfers with sub-40 averages in Ryan Bartos (37.3), Todd Hangliter (38.1), Nolan Nicklas (38.2) and Jimmy Stoltenberg (39.3). Austin Albert has the fifth-best average with a solid 40.9 and Trevor Botta carries a 42.1 average.
“We're not a team that has a guy who is going to go out and shoot par every time,” said SV coach Dean Leventopoulos. “We knew that it would have to be every guy contributing a good score and they've embraced that.”
Leading a team with so many impressive averages has not come by chance for Bartos, who has seen improvement in his short game from last year.
“Chipping, putting, shots within 100 yards ... I practiced it a lot over the summer. You can shave a lot of strokes that way.”
Aside from working together against other teams, there often has been a very competitive challenge to see who can card SV's best score.
“That competition has a lot to do with our success,” said Leventopoulos. “We have guys who don't crack our top six, but they're good golfers. Our seven through nine are Cameron Martin, Michael Beggy and Jon McCullough.
The high standard upheld by the team has fostered this year's run. SV's best effort was a 183 in a win over Shaler. They also managed 185 twice, 186 and 188. Even in the one match the Raiders fell short in this season, they shot a solid 195 against Pine-Richland.
“We knew we were all capable of shooting low scores,” added Bartos. “It was just a matter of going out and doing it.”
Many team members get together in the offseason to hone their skills.
“A lot of us compete in tournaments outside of high school and meet once per week at the range,” said Hangliter, a senior. “We have eight seniors, so there's a lot of leadership.”
Playing in such a tough section also aids the Raiders.
“North Allegheny and Pine-Richland are always really good,” said Leventopoulos. “Butler had some young kids this year and they are going to be good for the next few years.
“It's a very difficult section and to go undefeated is really tough. We get tested and it's not just there for us to take, we have to go out and get it.”
SV's home matches take place at Cranberry Highlands, where the Raiders have learned the nuances of the fairways, greens and even Mother Nature.
“I love it when it's windy. It's a huge advantage for us,” said Hangliter. “We had our invitational there (Thursday) and the wind was blowing about 20-miles-per-hour.
“It felt normal because we're used to it.”
The Raiders were scheduled to compete in the WPIAL team semifinals Tuesday at The Links at Spring Church.