A year ago, the Central York golf team sat in the Windows Terrace at Heritage Hills Golf Resort during the PIAA state team golf championships and watched as its score was tallied, only to finish third in Class 3-A.
With every member of that team returning for 2017, the prospects for a state title were very real, giving the Panthers hope that this season would be different.
On Wednesday, Oct. 25, Central was back in that same room, awaiting the final scores to be posted. When everything was official, the Panthers greatly improved on their 2016 team score, but still came up four shots short of a state gold medal.
Central finished with a four-person team total of 296, four strokes back of Class 3-A champion Unionville, which shot a 292.
"I really thought we had a good chance of winning today," Panthers' head coach Sean Guerin said. "Coming in, we felt very confident. I think we gained some experience from last year, it just didn't turn out that way for us."
Despite two of Central's four scores being tied for the low round of the day in the boys' tournament, with Joe Parrini and Carson Bacha shooting 1-under 70s, the Panthers didn't quite have the depth to contend with Unionville.
The other two scores to count for Central were Brady St. Pierre's 5-over 76 and Will Gekas' 9-over 80. Jun Lee was the fifth member of the team, but his 10-over 81 was not counted.
However, Unionville didn't take a score higher than a 3-over 74, with an even-par 71, a 2-over 73 and two 74s counting toward the team total.
"We were real close with four holes to play and we came up a little short," Guerin said. "But, I'm proud of my team. They battled very hard. To be honest with you, they lost to a very, very good team. Sometimes you just get beat and I think that's what happened to us today and I'm OK with that."
With a handful of holes to play, a state gold seemed like the Panthers' to lose. Through 14 holes, Parrini was sitting at 3-under, Bacha at 2-under and Gekas at 6-over. If things held that way, Central would've taken home the title.
But, Unionville stuck with the Panthers shot-for-shot. Eventually, Central gave back some strokes down the stretch.
"I left a few strokes out there my last three holes for sure, so that kind of hurts, especially when it counts for the team," Parrini said.
Hot start, rough finish: After bouncing back with a 2-under round on Tuesday in the second round of the two-day individual state competition, Parrini carried that momentum into the team competition.
He got out to a fast start, making two birdies on the front nine to turn at 1-under. A tap-in birdie at No. 10 moved Parrini to 2-under and another birdie shortly after had him eyeing a low round. But, a pair of bogeys down the stretch brought Parrini back to the pack.
Bacha's round played out similarly, with Bacha seeking a low number midway through his day. However, missed putts for more birdies early in his round came back to haunt Bacha, as he also dropped a shot coming in.
Gekas had an up-and-down round with some controversy mixed in. He played his first eight holes in 4-over, before a birdie-bogey-birdie stretch on holes 10-12 got him back to 3-over. However, a potential birdie, or at worst, par, turned into a bogey on the par-5 11th when his second shot hit a golf cart that was crossing the fairway. The ball ricocheted under a tree, leading to a bogey 6. Gekas' final several holes didn't go how he wanted, giving back six shots over his final seven holes.
While Lee could never quite get any momentum going in his round, St. Pierre put together a strong 18 holes. He hovered around 5 over much of the day, but a birdie on the long par-4 18th got him to 4-over with three holes to play, eventually settling at 5-over.
Last year, when Pittsburgh Central Catholic won with a 297 team score, it was the first time since 2012 that a team won with a sub-300 score. Manheim Township won that year with a 299 score.
This year, the Panthers' total would've beaten last year's winning score, but still came up short this year, showing just how tough Unionville was.
"I can't say enough about Unionville," Guerin said. "I know Unionville won their district and shot under par as a team to do it. So, we knew we were up against it, but anything can happen out here, so I still felt confident in our team."
Decorated senior class: While last year's third-place team came back intact, this year's runner-up group will be hurt by graduation. There were seven seniors on this year's team, including Arizona-commit Parrini, Gekas, St. Pierre and Julianne Lee, who was a longtime stalwart for Central's team.
"It's just a talented group that they've been playing together for four years now and all made the team as ninth graders," Guerin said. "Four county championships, two district championships and a second and third at states for a high school golf career is incredible."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com