After breezing to sectional titles each of the past two years, the Lady Hound golf team had to sweat Monday's Class 1 Sectional 4 Tournament out.
It wasn't until the scores were posted in the Mozingo Lake Golf Course clubhouse late Monday afternoon that the Hounds could breath easy.
With a team score of 420, Maryville beat out both Richmond and Smithville for the sectional title by a miniscule two-stroke margin, sending the Hounds back to the Class 1 State Tournament as a team for the fifth consecutive year.
Richmond and District 7 champion Smithville tied for the second qualifying spot with a 422, and the Spartans won out in a tiebreaker based on the scores of their No. 5 golfers.
All of the other four teams in contention—Maysville, Savannah, Tarkio and Albany—shot 442 or worse on a day in which vicious winds and the pressure of post-season golf caused scores to elevate across the board.
Maryville dealt with both of those factors as well as the absence of No. 3 golfer Meghan Klaas who was suspended over the weekend.
With first place finisher Jessica Pfost and co-fourth place finisher Megan Shell providing the two best scores among the contending teams, the Hounds had just enough ammunition to come out on top.
"Without Meghan, you never know how that's going to turn out, but the girls came through," said Maryville head golf coach Brenda Ricks. "I told them when they started, if they ever listen to me as a coach, they need to listen to me today and that was to play the shot and not think about the score. And if they started thinking about the score, they'd be done. Some of them struggled on the back. The back here was rougher. It's tough. I'm very pleased with what they did."
Proving to be immune from the difficult weather conditions or the pressure, Pfost was the only golfer in the field to shoot under 90.
Her round of 88, which consisted of birdies on No. 2 and No. 10, made her a first-time sectional champion by a two-stroke margin over Lawson's Madalynn Propst.
"I'm pretty good about forgetting about pressure," said Pfost. "Historically, I've played better in bad weather. If it was sleeting and raining, I don't why, but it doesn't really affect me like it does other people."
Pfost shaved two strokes off her district round and matched the score she shot during both rounds at state last year where she medaled with a 12th place finish.
Able to maintain a sharp edge to her game despite sitting out a bulk of the season due to a suspension, Pfost will have the opportunity to end her career as a two-time state medalist.
Page 2 of 3 - "I made an extra point of staying late at practices," said Pfost. "I think I was the last one at practice almost everyday and I just worked a lot harder instead of going through the motions. It was hard to be motivated by myself, but I was out here everyday."
Fellow Hound senior Megan Shell, a lynchpin at the top of the lineup, struggled slightly on the back nine, but a 44 on the front propelled her to shoot 94 and finish tied for fourth place with Smithville's Paige Imhoff.
Maryville's scoring dropped off quite a bit in the three through five spots, pulling the other teams closer to them.
The Hounds No. 4 golfer Mollie Holtman came through with a round of 116—the third best on the team and tied for 22nd in the field. Older sister Cassie Holtman shot a 122 and tied for 30th.
Taking the spot vacated by Klaas in the lineup, Maryville's Hannah Brod tied for 37th with a 125. The back nine was particularly treacherous for Brod who shot a 71—fourth highest in the field. Her score, however, didn't factor into Maryville's team total.
"We didn't think it was going to be that close," said Pfost. "Megan didn't have her best day, but she didn't shoot that bad. I obviously shot pretty low, but when they started coming in with their worst scores we were kind of worried. Last I knew, they shot pretty well on the front. I was pretty confident. When they came in with 120's, I was like 'uh oh.' I knew the back nine was harder then the front. I didn't know it was going to bite them that much. I was scared once I knew both teams were that close behind us. I figured one of them maybe would be. Two strokes in golf, that's not very much at all especially between four people."
Richmond, the other state qualifying team, and Smithville both had a pair of top 10 finishers below Maryville's two.
Richmond's BreAnn Mathis finished sixth with a 95 and Makenzie Turley tied for ninth with a 101. The other three team members going to state are Maddy Zeller, Zoe Harper and Rebecca Westbrook.
Imhoff had the low round for Smithville, tying for fourth place with a 94. Teammate Leah Shipley tied for ninth with a 101.
Both qualified for state individually as well as 12th place finisher Taryn Mosby.
Lafayette's lone individual state qualifier was third place finisher and MEC champion Kaydrie Bergner who shot a 92. Tarkio's No. 1 golfer Hadley Barnett made it to state with a seventh place finish, shooting a 96.
Maysville is sending a trio of golfers—Steffanie Eggleston, Claire Huffaker and Hannah Huffaker—to state.
Page 3 of 3 - LeBlond's Morgan Steele made it to state with a 110 and South Harrison's Allison Mulnix grabbed the final qualifying spot with a 111.
The Class 1 State Meet is being held at Meadow Lake Acres Country Club in New Bloomfield Monday and Tuesday.