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The St. Helens High School girls golf team, led by coach Jared Phillips, gets ready for tough competition.

COURTESY PHOTO: MICHELLE NETT - The St. Helens High School girls golf team, this 2021 photo, are ready for action on the links. The baseball season is in full swing at St. Helens High School, and it won't be too many months before football helmets will be clanking away on the gridiron.

But don't lose sight of the girls golf team, under the coaching of Jared Phillips.

The Lady Lions are perfecting chip shots and aiming for birdies, and in his seventh year at the helm, Phillips is looking forward to the season.

The season kicked off with a league tournament at Charbonneau Golf Club in Wilsonville.

"It wasn't how we hoped to start the season," Phillips acknowledged.

The Lions took fourth place out of the four teams that were there, Phillips said — just behind archrival Scappoose, which took third. Wilsonville won first place and La Salle second.

Phillips recalled last season, which he said went well.

"It was the COVID year, so we didn't have official league champs or an official state tournament," Phillips said. "We were the 'unofficial' league champs last year. At the 'unofficial' state tournament, we placed fifth and we were actually one stroke off of fourth place, so it was a really good year."

Phillips recalled, "Our best golfer, Alexus Burgoyne, graduated early as a junior last year. She was the primary scorer on the team and just did a great job for us. She was kind of our team leader."

While Phillips said Burgoyne's absence leaves a vacuum for leadership, he is proud of the girls who have stepped up to fill that void.

Phillips said, "I would say this year, it's kind of more leadership by committee. We have a group of senior girls who have been in the program for four years now."

He added, "Most of the freshmen I get have never played before, so there's a developmental process there."

According to Phillips, there are three seniors who are filling the void created by the departure of Burgoyne. They are Sarah Vanderwerf, Cecily McDole and Monica Aguirre-Lopez.

Vanderwerf and McDole played in the state tournament last year and were major contributors.

"They have all done a good job of being part of that senior leadership committee on our team and filling that void," Phillips said, noting he is happy to see the participation this year.

"In total, we have the best participation we've ever had," he said. "It's outstanding. We have 24 participating now. About 10 of those are new golfers who have never played before. The rest are returning from previous years."

Phillips said there will be four more league tournaments. These will be held every Tuesday for the next four weeks. A regional district tournament will be held May 9 and May 10 at Heron Lakes in Portland.

Looking ahead to this year, Phillips said, "We're pretty solid in our varsity lineup across the board, but we're trying get some of our golfers to score a little better and be able to compete at the top of the league."

As to team spirit, there's no problem in that department.

"It's a great group of girls to work with," Phillips said, recalling, "We went out to a team dinner Tuesday night after the tournament, and the manager of the restaurant told me it was the best-behaved high school group that he's seen in 25 years of managing restaurants. It's an outstanding group."

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