GREENFIELD — As soon as the final team scores were reported at the Greenfield-Central Sectional on Monday afternoon, the Mt. Vernon Marauders turned the page.
Upset by Hoosier Heritage Conference rival New Castle (309) by one-stroke on the leader board for the team championship, the Marauders, who shot a season-best 310, shifted their focus quickly.
Though, unable to repeat as sectional champions, their primary goal remained — earning a potential team state berth.
“Hopefully, we can prove to some people who might think we’ve fallen short of expectations that we still have our eyes set on the prize,” Mt. Vernon’s Oliver Mast said. “We’re going to come out focused and ready.”
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Despite the letdown earlier this week, the Marauders are once again heading to regional today at The Players Club in Yorktown, a yearly tradition since their competitive uptick, beginning four years ago.
Sectional runner-ups in 2014, Mt. Vernon was third in 2015 before breaking through with its first-ever sectional team title in 2016. Now, back being the hunters instead of the hunted, the group is fixated on a specific number.
“Last year, I think it was a 306,” Mt. Vernon’s Will Dant said. “We need to get down from what we shot last year.”
At last year’s regional, the Marauders turned in a 309 at The Players Club in Yorktown. They narrowly missed the team state cut by two strokes behind Yorktown at 307 in third place.
With only the top-three teams and top-five individuals on non-advancing teams at regional moving on to the state finals, the fight for the third spot is truly up for grabs.
Noblesville enters the regional as the front runner after turning in a staggering 288 at Purgatory Golf Club at sectional. Hamilton Southeastern was second at the Noblesville Sectional with a 307 — the two lowest team scores in this year’s regional field.
Below the top two are a cluster of state hopefuls in New Castle (309), Cathedral (315), Fishers (311), Tipton (313), Marion (313) and the Marauders.
“Regional is going to be tough,” Mast said. “Noblesville is there and they’re a top-five team in the state. HSE (Hamilton Southeastern) is there. Then you have some other top 20 teams that I think we can throw ourselves into the mix with.
“There are going to be three or four teams trying for that third spot, and if one of those top-two teams falters a little bit, we’ll be right there to try to claim one of those three spots.”
The Marauders’ confidence stems from past experience, success and adversity.
The group shot a 316 at The Players Club on April 8 and recently put in a practice round to familiarize themselves with the tricky terrain and make-or-break greens.
At the Hoosier Heritage Conference Meet on May 13, the Marauders posted a previously season-best 312, but lost the title to Delta, which fired a 311.
However, consistency has been key throughout the season from the team’s top four golfers. Mast, a University of Indianapolis recruit, tied with Dant, an Indiana Tech recruit, for third at sectional with a 3-over par 75.
The twosome are former state qualifiers with Mast in 2015 and Dant in 2016.
The duo have stayed sub-80 a majority of the year. Mast shot a 68 at HHC to win all-conference and medalist honors. Junior Max Heitman joined Mast and Dant on all-tournament team as Mt. Vernon won its eighth straight Hancock County team title in May.
Junior Xavier Dunham has followed suit in key situations, posting a 76 to lead the team at their own invitational in April.
Their score at sectional scratches the surface, Mast said.
“We were consistent all the way through (at sectional) in all five of our spots. That’s something that has maybe lacked a bit earlier this year,” Mast said. “We’re very close to having a day where we are all shooting our best, which is what we had at sectional and regional last year. We’re getting very close, so hopefully (at regional), we’re all peaking at the right time, and we can pull off something great.”
The Marauders tee off at regional, beginning with No. 5 golfer John Husar at 8:50 a.m. on the 10th hole.
New Palestine, which was third at sectional with a 341 take the course at 9:40 a.m. with Nick Lyon leading the Dragons. New Palestine freshman Quinn Dobbins went 6-over par 78 at sectional to pace the team, while seasoned veteran Blake Barnette carded an 83 with a consistent 41 on the front nine and 42 on the back.
The Marauders are aiming for four scores under 80 as they attempt to clinch their first team state invite.
“We’re a strong group of guys, and we understand what disappointment is, but we also understand how to learn from it, grow from it and better ourselves from it,” Dant said. “At the end of the day, we know what it takes to come back from that one-stroke loss. Maybe at regional, we win by one-stroke.”