By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Knights finished last year’s regular season with an 11-4 record (10-4 in division), placing third in the CCC West behind Simsbury and Newington. At the Division I state championship, held at Timberlin Golf Club in Berlin, the Knights remained in contention after the front nine and were still in the hunt as they approached the 18th hole.
Don’t be fooled by Southington’s eighth place finish last spring. Ridgefield (313) won the state title, followed by a three-way tie for runner-up between Greenwich, Glastonbury, and Darien, all with a team score of 315. Staples (318) trailed in fifth, but the Knights (320) were right in the mix.
Jacob D’Alessandro cracked the top 20, finishing 5-up for the round to pace the Knights with a 77. Ryan Burrill (79) and Andrew Szandrocha (81) finished in the top 50. Harrison Garrett (56) and Julian Cardozo (87) rounded out Southington’s top five.
Danbury’s Andrew Stock finished 3-under (69) to win the individual title.
The bad news for the Knights heading into this season is that they have lost Garrett and Cardozo to graduation. The good news? Three of those state-competing golfers (D’Alessandro, Burrill, Szandrocha) are returning to the team for another run at the title.
“It means that they have some really great experience after playing in arguably one of the most pressure-filled days as a high school golfer when you go play for a state championship,” said DiNello. “And for the most part, they handled it very well.”
DiNello said that all three golfers are sort of similar in their approaches to the game.
“They play the game really quite cerebrally,” the coach said. “They’re smart on the golf course, and they take pride in their course management. I think they know their limitations and their strengths. I remember there being days when they didn’t have their best swing or weren’t on top of their game, but they found ways to score.”
At the same time, DiNello said that they are also different in the way they approach the game. D’Allesandro doesn’t overpower the ball as he maneuvers his way through the course. Szandrocha mixes power and finesse, while Burrill is the perfect mixture of both styles. Burrill and Szandrocha take more risks, while D’Allesandro is more deliberate and steady.
DiNello said that each one has the potential to post the low score on any given day.
“That’s exciting,” the coach said “For some of those guys, this is going to be their third year of experience because they some pretty good quality time when they were sophomores also. I’m hoping that it will be enough to put us right in it, so that we have a chance coming down the stretch like we did last year.”
DiNello said that one of the more interesting factors for the team coming into this season is the question of who will fill in the missing No.4 and No. 5 spots. One of those golfers returning with experience that will look to fill in one of those spots includes senior Andrew Rogalski, who spent most of last year playing behind the scenes on the varsity lineup.
“Andrew was right in it all the way until the very end, in terms of getting a spot in the state championship lineup that day,” said DiNello. “I think Andrew is really going to make a push for that four or five spot. He might even push higher. Andrew is capable on any given day. He hits the ball a ton.”
The good news about those last two varsity spots is that Southington returns a solid core of junior varsity golfers, including senior Stephen Salmon; juniors Dylan Breutzmann, John Mindek, Michael Zera, and Nathan L’Heureux; and freshmen Christopher McManus, Cameron Zegzdryn, and Ryan Case.
“After Andrew [Rogalski], all of these guys can make a push for that five-spot,” the coach said. “I think what’s going to be fun is watching this group compete for those four and five-spots.”
As far as the team’s strength, DiNello said that he wants to believe his top three golfers can compete with the top of anybody’s lineup on the schedule.
“Based on how much they’ve grown over the course of the past three years, I would like to believe that it’s a distinct possibility,” said DiNello. “But it takes four scorers. We’ve been very fortunate over the past few years that whatever five guys we put out there, we could pretty much bank on four guys coming in pretty low. Right now, we’re going to have to see how that plays out.”
DiNello said that his guys have to really want to compete heading into the season.
“They have to have the mentality that a conference championship is a realistic expectation, as well as a state championship. You have to want to grind and not accept mediocrity. They have to have a real fighter’s instinct and an edge to them to get over the hump.”
For the past two springs, the Knights played in the last foursome at the state championship—the top seeded teams in the field—without a senior in their top three.
“That should make you hungry, and it should make you feel like you can compete,” the coach said. “It should make you feel like you have a really great chance to win. If you put the work in, it can happen.”
Other seniors that the Knights are graduating include David Harrison, Cameron Babin, Cameron Chubet, and Mitchell Baker.
DiNello said that he will be announcing his team captains at a later time.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.