ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) Lutheran girls golf is in its golden age and after a second straight year of finishing in the top three at state, the school rolled out the red carpet for their Big Northern, regional, and sectional champions.
The Lady Saders were honored inside the Lutheran gym this morning following the team's runner-up performance in Decatur. The entire student body cheered on head coach Joe Lodico and his golfers after they improved their total score by more than 30 strokes from last year.
Although they did not stand at the top of the podium at state, the Crusaders completed their main goal.
"We were excited to hear that we finished better than we did last year," said junior Natalie Hooper. "That was our whole goal going down to state and finishing better than we did last year so we're pretty excited about it."
"It's probably an ultimate goal for a coach to reach a certain plateau in their coaching career," said Lodico. "To have a third place trophy last year and a second place trophy this year, it's just unbelievable. I'm just grateful that I had the opportunity to have such a good and talented group of girls."
Hooper led her squad with a fourth place score of 158 over the two rounds of golf. Freshman Brighton Young, senior Caitlin Schoepfer and sophomore Finley Rock followed that up with top 60 scores.
"They're dedicated golfers," Lodico said. "They play all year round if they can. They play in the summer time and in the winter time in areas where they can play. They are girls that dedicate themselves to golf. Most of the schools that we played down there are a lot bigger. We're only about 340 students and most of those schools are probably 700 or 800 students. It means a lot to the kids in the school and to Rockford that we represent them."
While Lutheran will be missing seniors like Schoepfer and Megan Larson, they are set up to make another run at state in 2018.
Following their big improvement at Red River Run, Hooper is optimistic about knocking some strokes off of the team's total score for her final season with the Saders.
"We all knew that we could do something better with our game," Hooper said. "That's normally how it ends up when we finish with a good round, there's always something we could have fixed so we know that going into next year."
"I've got three starters coming back next year and I have a transfer that couldn't play this year that should be a big help next year so I think we'll have four solid girls next year," said Lodico. "Of course you need six for a team so I'm hoping that I can pick up a couple of our JV's that played this year and move them into the starting lineup."