In years past, Fox Chapel Area High School girls golf coach John Broderick was able to rely on some individual talent to vault the Foxes to the top of the heap among the teams that annually contend for WPIAL team honors.
That was the case in 2010 when the Foxes won the WPIAL team title by a 10-stroke margin, 329-339, against neighborhood rival Shady Side Academy with the Luttner sisters -- Katterina and Nadia -- leading the charge.
Even last year, the Foxes had a reliable stalwart in Ashley DeMoss, who placed seventh in the WPIAL Class AAA individual championships and is now competing this fall on Marshall University's first women's golf team.
But without a golfer standing alone ahead of the rest of her teammates, this year's Fox Chapel team is a competitive unit that has won five of its first six matches against Section 3 opposition. Section 3 teams have won a WPIAL team title the past five years. Shady Side Academy won in 2008 and '09, Fox Chapel won in 2010, Shady Side won again in 2011 and Penn-Trafford won in 2012.
As there is no player head-and-shoulders above the rest, Broderick has seen his team field six different lineups in the first six section matches.
"I've put 11 of our 13 players in a lineup and we're 5-1," said Broderick, who has coached the girls golf team for 15 years. "It's not so much challenging as it is exciting."
The lone sectional loss came against defending WPIAL Class AAA champion and PIAA Class AAA runner-up Penn-Trafford by a margin of 192-218.
At this point of the season, high school golf teams have met all of its sectional opponents at least once. Most are beginning their second rotation against section foes this week.
Fox Chapel, though, is one exception as the Foxes have yet to play Shady Side Academy, a school that is "a driver and a 3-wood" from Fox Chapel's campus.
"We play them [today]," Broderick said. "There was a scheduling conflict [earlier], so we won't see them until [today]."
Broderick has relied on his two senior co-captains to keep the team focused and relaxed.
"Both Taylor Patrick and Mia Damian have been great in organizing team activities and keeping the team together," he said. "They've taught the younger girls what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it, and that's what you are looking for in a team captain."
Patrick has not seen much action in the team's matches, but Damian has had a solid season for the Foxes. Both are Fox Chapel residents.
"[Damian] has been a solid No. 3 player," Broderick said. "She's really buckled down lately, and she's been a solid middle of the lineup player all year. She's a very good ball striker and gets off the tee well. She's not a long hitter, but she keeps it in the fairway and stays out of trouble."
While Damian sees plenty of playing time, she's never quite sure who will be her teammates in a given match.
Patrick, who has not been in the lineup for the past three matches, hopes to rejoin her fellow captain on the course.
"She's working on some things, but she hasn't allowed her scores to slow down her enthusiasm," Broderick said. "She's everything you could want in a co-captain, but she could get in the lineup.
"I tell her -- just like I tell our extra girls -- to get out there, get a nine-hole score and see what happens. There's no bickering or backstabbing on this team. We feel we have a functional family situation."
The rest of the team: juniors Marin Martin, Kate Fink and Olivia Heinauer; sophomores Elizabeth Critendon, Libby Friend, Priyanka Shah, Emily Robosson and Ciera Miller and freshmen Ursula Meyer Ally Robosson and Kristen Nestel have seen plenty of action.
"None of our players have had an individual tremendous round," he said. "Our lowest score has been a 48."
But the team has been close on the course.
"Our highest score has been a 60, so there's only a 12-stroke differential between our best score and our worst score," Broderick said. "I've found most teams have good scores from their No. 1 and No. 2 players, and then they fall off with Nos. 3, 4, and 5. That hasn't happened with us."hsother