Section realignment presented the Hopewell High School girls golf team with quite the obstacle.
Before last fall, the WPIAL shifted the Beaver County team to Class AAA's Section 2 and mixed them in with schools mostly from the southern part of Allegheny County such as Bethel Park, Elizabeth Forward, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair along with Oakland Catholic.
Besides the lengthy travel for away matches, the Vikings now face much stronger competition.
"It's the hand we were dealt," said Jeff Homziak, who is back for his fifth season as Hopewell's girls golf coach. "If we would have stayed north and competed with some of the schools closer to us, I think we'd have a better chance to compete.
"Sometimes it's hard to play against teams that have girls whose families may belong to country clubs and play year-round. Those kids who play year-round constantly produce low scores."
Hopewell, however, picked up a big non-section win last week, knocking off Mars, 205-208.
"Mars used to be a team from our section," said Homziak, who also is Hopewell's girls basketball coach. "We're both very similar in size of schools. When we played against them in our old section, they were always a good and tough opponent.
"They've been a playoff team. They were a good, quality opponent for the girls to really test themselves against. It was a good gauge for our seniors to see where they're at in the season and what they're going to need to do the rest of the year to get better."
Homziak expects his three returning seniors -- Kaitlyn Kennedy, Alexxis Langton and Lacey Rovnak -- to guide Hopewell this fall.
"So far, the season has gone well," Homziak said. "We're 2-2 and we have three seniors who have been playing for the past three years. They may have only learned how to golf and started playing as freshmen, but they have each gotten better each year.
"All three of them worked very hard to get better over the summer."
Kennedy and Langton, who both average rounds in the low 40s, led Hopewell against Mars. Kennedy fired a 41, while Langton shot a 45 against the Planets.
Homziak also rotates juniors Lauren Debiec, Sarah Malloy and Katie Mihalik into his score card's top five.
"We have to keep getting better in practice, whether it's working on our chipping or putting," Homziak said. "We're getting better, but we have to keep improving our short game. That's where we'll be able to produce better scores."
Hopewell uses The Club at Shadow Lakes Golf Course in Aliquippa, which was formerly known as the Beaver Lakes Country Club, as its home course.
"Our program only started in 2008, so we're still growing," Homziak said. "I came into coaching golf in 2009 because a few of my basketball players decided to play golf that season. I really enjoy it. The girls enjoy it, too.
"This is a great sport that they can play the rest of their lives. No matter what they end up doing in life, they may be able to come back and play the sport for fun.
"Being able to golf could be an advantage when they have a job. You never know, being able to play could help them get a promotion one day."hsother