When the Langley golf team tees off Monday morning in the state championship at the Crossings Golf Club in Richmond, the Saxons will be the favorite to repeat as the Virginia state champions.
But they may find themselves stalked through the two-day, 36-hole tournament by another Fairfax County team whose composition resembles the character of the Langley club of two years ago.
Langley's chief competition for the state title is a team composed of a bunch of sophomores, not unlike the 1982 Langley team.
Two years ago, playing with the sophomore nucleus of Pete Costolanski, Doug Brown and Park Ashley, Langley finished as runner-up in the state championship. Last year, that same nucleus led the Saxons to the state title.
Now, Costolanski, Brown and Ashley are seniors with another year of playing experience, but they will have to play with titleholders' poise if they are to defend their championship.
"The super sophs," West Springfield Coach Bill Lovell says, are why the Spartans might pull off an upset at the Crossings.
But the five sophomores who led West Springfield to second place in the Northern District tournament behind Robinson and second place behind Langley in the regional shootout are only one part of the Spartans' golf equation.
James McArdle, the seasoned, four-year letterman and captain, is the other component.
Lovell feels that McCardle, in addition to being an excellent golfer, exerts a positive influence on the sophomores. "He is always willing to help counsel them," said Lovell, who has won two state titles (1976 and '79) in his 15 years as head coach.
"Sometimes I holler at them (sophomores) and it just doesn't sink in," Lovell said. "Being closer in age, they listen to what he has to say. He also has the ability to help coach them. His outlook, maturity and foresight are a real benefit to the team."
In the regional competition at Algonkian, the Spartans combined rounds of 74 from McArdle and sophomore Rick Elmendorf, a 77 from sophomore Bill Carlstrom and Bill Brum's 84 for a 309 total, three strokes back of Langley, but 13 ahead of third-place Robinson.
Brown paced Langley with 72, Costolanski shot 74, Ashley had 78 and Tim Warren 82.
"When we got to the regional (tournament) we felt we had as good a chance of winning as anybody," Lovell said. "In the regional, we played to our capabilities. Langley was favored to win and win big. But we gave them a scare."
If Langley wasn't scared, Coach Sonny Chisholm was impressed.
"You can win with a young team," Chisholm said. "They're similar to what we were two years ago when my kids were sophomores. They're a good young team. In no way am I counting them out."
"They shot a 309 out at Algonkian. In most years that'll win. The third place score was 322."
Lovell believes his young team has matured during the season and is now better suited for tense tournament play.
Four individual golfers also qualified. Fred Widicus of Jefferson and Chris Turner of Oakton shot 72 to tie Langley's Brown for tournament low round. Tom Hall of South Lakes, 74, and Robinson's Bobby Sullivan, 76, join them.