As expected, the highly-anticipated match between Staples High School's girls golf team and visiting Greenwich was a close one. The visiting Cardinals shot 172 and the Wreckers had a 174, giving the Cards the edge at the par 37 Longshore Country Club on Thursday.
Greenwich, the only FCIAC team to defeat Staples in recent years, including twice last season, handed the Wreckers their first loss of this campaign.
The Cardinals, who had lost to Danbury, improved to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the FCIAC's West Division, and Staples dropped to 4-1 (2-1).
Greenwich's Alexandra Sazhin shot a 39 to earn medalist honors. Catherine McEvoy and Pamela Jennemyr both shot a 40, and Kendyl Nethercott, with a 53, rounded out the top four scores for the visitors. The Wreckers were led by Faith Garcia with a 40, Anelise Browne (42), Marie McHugh (45) and Mary Bennewitz (47).
This match had a different feel than others given the history between, and talent level of, these rival programs.
"It was very quiet, they were focused," Staples coach Bob Byiteck said. "They knew it was the biggest match of the season so far."
This wasn't Staples' best performance. The Wreckers shot a 169 at home in a season-opening win over Ridgefield. They also fired a 188 in a win over Fairfield Ludlowe on April 29, but that score was reflective of the poor, rainy conditions.
Sunny skies greeted the Greenwich and Staples golfers, but some wind and the greens having recently been aerated altered the way they may have otherwise performed.
"It was just a great match. It was exciting," said Byiteck, adding that the outcome was in question until the final scores were tallied after the final foursome played the last hole.
"It puts a little more pressure (on the players)," McHugh said of facing the always-tough Cardinals. "Because they are one of the better teams."
McHugh has emerged as one of the top golfers at Staples this spring and, playing as the No. 2 golfer in the lineup behind Garcia, noted that the top golfers are paired with opposing team's top golfers. That side-by-side look at Greenwich's best from hole-to-hole adds a little more pressure. "It's tough," McHugh said.
"I enjoy it," Garcia said of the level of the competition. "It's different. It's a little more quiet. Everyone's more focused because this is one of the better teams."
Byiteck said his team was looking forward to a better outcome since this meeting was on its home course.
"The girls were extremely disappointed," Byiteck said. "As we talked they realized that we still can win when we play Greenwich at their course, and the bigger prize is when we play Greenwich in the FCIAC championship and again in the state championship."
Staples visits Greenwich May 22, and the FCIAC and state tourneys are set to unfold in early June. Following the first meeting with Greenwich, the Wreckers turned their focus to a home match with Danbury on Monday, a team they defeated by three strokes on the road on April 24.