Gary McKay has coached talented golf teams at Loudoun Valley before, including one that claimed the Virginia AA championship in 1994. But he said last week that this year's squad "from top to bottom, definitely [is] one of our strongest."

The Vikings are 29-0 on the young season, and junior Zach Kendall, not among Loudoun Valley's top players a year ago, won the Cheers Classic mini-tournament earlier this month with a school-record 6-under-par 66.

The team added yet another Dulles District mini-tournament victory on Monday, finishing with a score of 308 to best runner-up Dominion (317) at Raspberry Falls. The spectacular results this month have been in large part due to a lineup that includes four golfers -- Kendall, sophomore Danny Bosse and seniors Nick Kelley and Ryan White -- who have avoided posting any scores higher than 79.

"We're off to a good start," McKay said. "But we're taking things one match at a time because we've got a long way to go in the season and a lot of things can change between now and regionals."

McKay should know. Last season the Vikings were the top team in the Dulles District before entering the highly competitive Region II tournament and finishing a disappointing sixth. Region II champion Western Albemarle went on to win the state title last season; Region II runner-up Monticello was second at the state tournament.

"We have one of the toughest regions in the state, no doubt," McKay said. "Last year we went undefeated in our district and we didn't make it out of the region. . . . This year our district is even stronger."

The Difference at Dominion

With junior Sara Hurwitch leading Dominion to an impressive 14-2 record so far this year, the Titans may provide the most spirited chase of Loudoun Valley in the Dulles District.

But earlier this month it took a gloomy bus ride home from a second-place finish behind Loudoun Valley at the Cheers Classic for Coach Sean Welsh to realize what's different this season.

"We're hungrier this season," said Welsh. "Last season we would have come back and not even thought about losing in that tournament, but this year we got on the bus and it was somber."

Heritage tied Dominion in the Cheers tournament, where Hurwitch scored a 68. And Welsh sided with McKay's comments that the Dulles District is more competitive this season.

But Welsh said he thinks the Titans are capable of beating any Dulles District team if they concentrate on their putting. Monday at Raspberry Falls, Welsh counted 10 three-putts among his top four players.

"If you want to be the top team you can't three-putt, so now I have them keep track of their putting and work on it during practice," said Welsh. "I think the difference between this season and last is that our team has a vision and we are getting closer and closer to the top team."

Ott's Enthusiastic Outlook

Fauquier first-year coach Mark Ott hasn't had more than a few days off from coaching during August, but he said he has gotten a lot of satisfaction out of the first half of the season.

For the second year in a row, the Falcons took home county bragging rights by winning the Combs' Cup, 378-412, over Highland on Thursday. Liberty finished third with 423.

The week before Fauquier defeated Sherando by five strokes at Rock Harbor for its first mini-Northwest District tournament title. And Ott has watched an enthusiastic battle for the Falcons' top individual spot between seniors Bryce Weir and Jordan Muirhead.

"I can't really tell you who my number one golfer is because either one of them is capable of it," said Ott. "They are both trying to beat each other, but at the same time they are supporting each other."

Ott said right now Weir has the edge with a 77 district shooting average, three better than Muirhead's 80. But Muirhead has been steadily improving and shot a team-low 76 at Rock Harbor.

"The great thing is that I feel we have a chance to [qualify as a team] at regionals this year," Ott said. "But even if we don't, I think we'll get in at least two of our top four individual golfers."