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Jackson girls golf enters postseason battle tested

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

JACKSON TWP. While the Federal League is generally tough throughout the sports year, a few specific sports stand out.

Girls golf has been one of those especially tough sports in recent years and even in the wake of the widespread effects of COVID-19 on high school sports in general, this fall has continued that trend.

It's why the Jackson Polar Bears find themselves heading into the postseason after going through the usual meat grinder that is the Federal League.

"Our league is tough year in and year out," veteran Jackson head coach Teal Harvey said. "Green won the league and deserved to, but we're all in the same sectional and you throw in Louisville, which beat us a couple of times this season, and it's a really tough field."

The leader for Jackson throughout the season has been junior Avery Wright, who tallied a 72 to finish as the runner-up for medalist honors by just one shot at last week's Federal League championship at the Elms Country Club in Tuscarawas Township.

Wright, who has been a mainstay in the lineup throughout her Jackson career, is an experienced competitor who has set the pace and is someone Harvey knows his squad can count on to deliver day in, day out.

"She's had a great year ... you can't ask too much more from her," Harvey said. "She's had some great rounds and has really been carrying us, but big thing for us is to have our other four step up."

Those other four include senior Anastasia Nikolaidis and juniors Savanna Porter, Abrielle Nikolaidis and Rylee Colangelo.

Harvey noted that on any given day, two or three from that group have played well, but they haven't all had a great round on the same day.

At the Federal League meet, Jackson finished with a team score of 323, 10 shots behind eventual champion Green. For the season, a third-place league finish is both a sign of how tough the league is and the challenges the Polar Bears have had finding their stroke on the same day.

One positive takeaway from the league meet is that it took place at the same location as the sectional meet, set for this week. That gave Jackson and the other Federal League teams playing in the same sectional event a good look at the course they would be returning to less than a week after the league tournament.

"Out there it's not as much of a challenge off the tee ... even though the par 3's are tough," Harvey said. "It's old school golf, small greens with a lot of tilt from back to front, so comes down to being able to make putts and play good shots into the green."

Given the program's recent track record of success in the postseason, including multiple top-five finishes at the state tournament, it would be easy for the Polar Bears to feel pressure for live up to that legacy.

Harvey says he sees in his team the motivation to play to a high level and add to the track record of success, but he also wants to make sure his golfers don't put unnecessary pressure on themselves.

"It's a different year and you want to give it your best shot and see what happens," Harvey said.

Jackson's No. 1 player Avery Wright hits her chip shot on No. 15 onto the green at the Elms Golf Course.
(IndeOnline.com / Kevin Whitlock)