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It’s been a couple of years since the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls golf team has earned its way into the state Class AAAA tournament during the regular season.
But with its win Monday at Los Alamos Golf Course, it’s just one tournament away from doing just that during the fall 2010 season.
Los Alamos won Monday’s Los Alamos Fall Invitational, finishing with an overall team score of 386, 18 shots better than St. Pius X. The score gave Los Alamos its second state qualification leg in as many tournaments. Three are required for state qualification.
The Hilltoppers couldn’t have picked a better year to get hot early, as a rule change for 2010-11 states that a district champion no longer automatically qualifies for the state tournament. The Hilltoppers didn’t pick up the necessary three regular season legs in either of the last two seasons but went on to win district both times.
“It takes so much pressure off,” Hilltopper No. 1 player Miranda Olinger said of the team potentially punching its ticket this fall — the golf season is divided so that approximately half the season is played in the fall and half in the spring. “In the last couple of years we haven’t gotten three legs. If you do that, you can relax, focus on your swing. It helps out a lot.”
Olinger, coming back from foot surgery, which forced her to sit out the entire 2009-10 season, finished tied for third individually Monday with Las Vegas Robertson’s Jody Quintana. Olinger shot an 89 in the tournament to pace her team.
However, a big showing by the Hilltoppers’ No. 5 player, Taylor Engleman, helped propel them to the victory and the qualification leg.
Engleman, who stayed busy this summer on the Sun Country Junior PGA Tour, fired a 93 Monday. Engleman, who is shooting about 10 strokes below her average early in the fall season, shot a red-hot 43 on the front side Monday.
Engleman, who started on the sixth hole, bounced back after taking an 8 on the 18th hole to par the first hole and get back on track.
She gave a fair portion of Los Alamos’ initial season success to new head coach Mike Lippiatt. Lippiatt was hired in mid-August, replacing John McBride, who resigned in the middle of the spring 2010 season.
“The coach, I really like him,” Engleman said. “He’s definitely coaching us really well. We’re learning a lot.”
While Lippiatt said he’s thrilled by the team’s success in its first two tournaments — Los Alamos won its season opener at Cochiti Pueblo earlier this month — he’s not going to take credit for anything just yet. In fact, Lippiatt feels there’s one big element still missing from the team’s game and his job will be to work on that for the remainder of the fall.
“My biggest goal is to work on their psyche,” he said. “The biggest thing is the girls need to know how good they are. I don’t think they know that yet.”
Monday’s tournament was won by Memoree Le Compte of St. Pius. Le Compte turned in an impressive round of 80, topping Belen’s Taylor Jaramillo by four strokes.
After Olinger and Engelman, Shelby Fellows finished with a 97 for Los Alamos, while Morgan Vaughn carded a 107.