With all five starters returning, expectations were high for Coginchaug’s boys golf team coming into the season. That fact was not lost on the returning Blue Devils.
“The guys have picked up where they left off,” Coginchaug coach Brian Dailey said. “Obviously, we had a good year last year and we are proud of that. From that first meeting it was clear we had big goals going into this season as well. We will approach it with the same kind of energy. They’ve had some success, liked that and want to have more.”
Trying to make it three straight Shoreline Conference tournament titles is at the top of the list, as is winning the Division IV state championship. For now, Coginchaug will work toward a perfect regular season.
That wasn’t a team goal, but it’s still possible: The Blue Devils have won their first eight matches. That includes wins over Berlin, Cromwell and Old Lyme, the only league team to beat Coginchaug last season.
“I think our goal right now is to keep building momentum. We had a very challenging start to the season,” Dailey said. “Everyone comes to work every day and goes for it. But it doesn’t feel like work.”
Tyler Woodward was last year’s medalist in both the Shoreline championship meet and the Division III state tournament. He’s already been medalist or co-medalist seven times. He is going to play at York College in Pennsylvania in the fall.
Kyle Roberts, a senior co-captain with Woodward, returned to the No. 2 spot. He was co-medalist once this season. Tom Vallone is in the No. 3 slot, followed by Justin Penney and E.J. Dzialo.
“Nos. 2-6 are scoring almost identical. They are all within a stroke or two,” Dailey said.
The Shoreline normally uses its No. 6 golfer as a JV spot, for the player to gain experience. Freshman Colin Murphy has been in that position more often than not. With just Penney returning next season from the top five, gaining experience now will only benefit Murphy and the Blue Devils later.
Dailey is in his second season as coach. His approach has been not to provide instruction on the swing, but the plan of how to approach certain situations or how to plan a practice, to make it fun, yet beneficial to all.
“Nobody wants to be told what to do. I try to stay out of the way,” Dailey said. “I’m very aware of their skills, their strengths and their weaknesses. I try to be light-hearted in my approach, asking them a lot of questions, everything from their thinking on a shot, where is your miss (on a shot) and about a practice plan. I help manage their talent and their practice schedule.”
All three of Coginchaug’s postseason meets are at the same sites as last year: Stanley GC in New Britain for the Shoreline tournament on May 22, Tallwood CC in Hebron for the Division IV state meet on June 3 and the State Open at the Black Hall Club in Old Lyme on June 8.
Woodward finished tied for fifth last year at the Open. Coginchaug finished third in Division III last year.