By claiming its first-ever state title in girls golf last week, Liberty High School also gained entry to an exclusive club of sorts.
Peoria’s Liberty became just the fourth school to keep Xavier Prep from winning a Division I state championship over the course of the last 40 years. Xavier, an all-girls Catholic school in central Phoenix, was the reigning champion and has dominated the sport for the last four decades, winning 36 titles during that span.
After finishing fifth in its quest for a state title last season, the Liberty Lions took an early lead in the two-day 2021 tournament and held off runner-up Xavier, which finished the opening round just three strokes off the pace set by the Lions, and the rest of the field to card a team score of 593 for the win.
Hamilton HS finished in third place and Pinnacle HS, which was the last team to beat Xavier by winning the 2019 title, came in fourth. Hamilton has a seat at the table of those who have beaten Xavier, bringing home the 2010 crown. The other team to have denied Xavier one of its three dozen wins is Horizon HS, which won back-to-back titles in 1996 and 1997.
Pinnacle has been the primary threat to Xavier in recent years, coming in runner-up in 2018 and again last year. The Pioneers were 20 strokes off the winning pace this time around.
But this year’s D-I honors go to Liberty, led by Mattie Frick who toured the Omni Tucson National Golf Course in 138 strokes. She was the tournament’s No. 2 scorer, right behind Hamilton’s Jennifer Seo who finished with an 8-under score of 134.
In Division II… it was Ironwood Ridge HS who looked more like Xavier as that Oro Valley school has begun its own string of title wins. The Nighthawks became the first southern Arizona school to win three consecutive girls golf titles when they covered the Omni National course with a winning team score of 573.
That was 15 strokes ahead of runner-up Salpointe Catholic‘s 588, which finished the first day’s round just a single stroke behind the Nighthawks. Cactus Shadows HS came in third, just two strokes behind the Lancers.
Cactus Shadows was the school beginning to build its own string of titles before Ironwood Ridge stepped to the top of podium. The north Scottsdale school had also won three straight before the Nighthawks began their run in 2019.
But looking ahead, Cactus Shadows may be ready to take back its place at the top of the mountain next year. The Falcons lost eight seniors from their 2020 team that was state runner-up, but still managed a third-place finish this year with a young squad that will be older and wiser in 2022.
They will, however, lose this year’s top scorer to graduation when senior Raina Ports, who led the Falcons’ squad at state with an individual score of 142, leaves to try her hand at the college game.
This year’s individual title went to Mackenzie McRee, a senior from Salpointe who carded a 138 to earn her second state title.