At every practice this season, La Plata golf coach David Russell has stressed that good golfers win by mastering the mental aspects of the game.
It couldn't have been more true Friday.
After a week in which rain postponed the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference golf tournament three times, the Warriors buried the rest of the conference by carding a 295 on a soggy Swan Point Golf Course.
Three La Plata teammates -- junior Daniel Barnas, sophomore Cody Burch and freshman Jay Dove -- tied for the low round of the day with 1-over-par 73s.
"We knew we probably wouldn't be there physically because of the weather lately, but we wanted to be there mentally," said Barnas. "Northern has a good team, so we knew it would take a good number."
Northern, the only other SMAC team to qualify for the state tournament, scored 316.
It was followed by McDonough (327), Leonardtown (335) and Lackey (342).
The wet fairways meant Swan Point played longer than its 5,900 yards and required patience from the golfers, who often had to settle for laying up.
"I just told them not to try to make it all up with one shot," said Russell. "The greens were the best they've been all year, and we have a really strong short game, which was big [Friday]."
Senior Vincent Hancock shot 76 to round things out for the Warriors. The tournament win added to a strong season for La Plata, which cruised to the SMAC regular season title and won the districts with all four players hovering around par. And while La Plata has talent, Barnas said the difference this year has all been in the golfers' heads.
"You just need to take a positive attitude from one hole to the next," he said. "You think, 'Okay, this isn't great weather, but I can lift and place the ball and hit my shot.' "
Five players not on the La Plata or Northern teams qualified individually for the state tournament -- Cam Fuller (74) and Justin Gragg (81) of McDonough, Chopticon's Clay Gurwell (79), Leonardtown's Daniel Blundell (79) and Calvert's Ralph Baker (80).
The Maryland State Tournament is a two-day event at the University of Maryland golf course, with the 4A/3A semifinals on Oct. 24, 2A/1A semifinals on Oct. 25 and finals on Oct. 26.
Parris Stays on Pace
To Patuxent cross-country coach Prasad Gerard, the improvement of senior Allison Parris this season is most apparent as she nears the end of a race.
In a successful start to her season, Parris has resisted the urge to take a big early lead and has had energy left at the end. The result has been several strong performances, including an unbeaten record in dual meets and two invitational wins.
"She's been running great this fall," Gerard said. "She's hitting her splits well, and she's running a much more controlled race."
Parris has a victory at the Panther Path Invitational on her home course, a fifth-place finish at the Bull Run Invitational and a win at the Doc Jones Invitational. She also won the Chaptico Classic 10K road race Aug. 27 against a field of adults.
At the Doc Jones meet at Annapolis High, which annually draws many of the top teams in Maryland, Parris won the Varsity A2 race in 19 minutes 22 seconds -- 46 seconds faster than second-place Maureen Wahl of Archbishop Spalding. Her time was the second best run by a girl at the meet, seven seconds behind Arundel senior standout Marissa McPhail, who won the A1 race in 19:15.
Parris's success has left her and her coach confident that she can once again be a contender in the SMAC and, perhaps, a contender in 2A. Parris was expected to run against the defending Maryland 2A champion, Atholton junior Alison Smith, for the first time at yesterday's Scorpion Crawl at Oakland Mills High.
"Mentally, she's just gotten much stronger," Gerard said. "She's the type of runner who likes to jump out in front, to get a fast start. But she's learned how to hold back if she needs to have some energy left for the end."
Last year, Parris was third in the SMAC and 24th in 4A. The top four runners in the SMAC from last year all returned, including defending champion Katlyn Dillow of Leonardtown and Katie Ogden and Keely Murphy of Northern. The SMAC meet is scheduled for Oct. 26 at Oak Ridge Park in Waldorf.
At a four-team conference meet Wednesday, Dillow ran a time of 18:38 to win and lead the Raiders to three more dual-meet victories against Thomas Stone, Lackey and North Point. With one meet remaining this Wednesday against Westlake and McDonough, the Raiders have a 10-0 record.
Dillow is looking again like a strong contender in the SMAC, but Coach Jamie Copsey said it will take some work to beat Parris, who defeated Dillow in a dual meet earlier this year.
"Right now she's the runner to beat in the SMAC," Copsey said of Parris. "It should be a very good race."
A Scheduler's Nightmare
This figures to be the busiest sports week Southern Maryland has seen in a long time.
Last week's rain postponed most outdoor events, and time is running out for make-up dates. The draw for the field hockey playoffs is Thursday, with playoffs scheduled to begin Oct. 25. Seeding for the boys' and girls' soccer playoffs will be Oct. 24, four days before the start of postseason play.
It appears some schools may not be able to complete their regular-season schedules before postseason deadlines.
"The way it looks, I won't be able to make it this year," Lackey athletic director Dave Anderson said. "As long as Lackey and the other school isn't in contention" for a SMAC title or playoff seed, that game won't be played.
"We have to make the best of it," he added. "That's all we can do."
Even though cleats didn't dig up most fields last week, the relentless rainfall left many in worse shape than a combination of Thursday soccer and Friday football would have.
"Our field is in terrible shape, and it hasn't even been used all week," Patuxent athletic director and football coach Steve Crounse said.
Crounse has scheduled field hockey games for tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday and girls' soccer games for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to complete the teams' schedules.
Patuxent's football game at Great Mills was postponed from Friday to tomorrow. That forced Crounse to push back this week's game -- which was scheduled for Thursday at Huntingtown -- to Oct. 24.
Staff writer Alan Goldenbach contributed to this report.