The word “rebuild” has rarely been attached to Kapaun Mount Carmel boys golf.
After winning the last four Class 5A titles and five of the last six, it was a safe assumption that the Crusaders would again be the favorite this season.
But this year’s team is different. There are no elite golfers such as Sam Stevens or Jared Burns. Instead, Kapaun has used its depth in getting back to another state tournament, which is Monday in Emporia.
The Crusaders finished second at the Crestview Country Club regional last week, eight shots behind Bishop Carroll.
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“We only had two players returning this season that had any postseason experience,” Kapaun coach Dan Harrison said. “So really, there was no pressure on the rest of the team. We were going to rebuild and develop with youth. I am really pleased with our depth.”
Harrison said there have been junior varsity players who have qualified for a varsity meet every week. In fact, there are multiple juniors and sophomores who have played varsity this year that won’t be making the trip to state.
“I think it is better to have a good six players rather than just one great player, like we have had in the past,” senior Eric Ewers said. “It alleviates the pressure on just one guy to play well. Now we all can lead and not just one guy.”
Ewers led the Crusaders in scoring average with a 73.8, but all six of the Crusaders average in the 70s.
Sophomore Ben Spicer was the difference for Kapaun at regionals, placing sixth with a 76. Freshmen Jack Baker and Cooper Steiner have also been contributors.
Senior Alec Wilbert and sophomore Keaton Eberhart round out the Crusaders’ state tournament lineup.
“We obviously have a young team,” Wilbert said. “We are telling the young guys to enjoy the state tournament. They need to enjoy the ride. It was a lot harder to make it this year than in the previous years.”
With such a wide-open 5A field this season, Kapaun, Carroll and Andover are considered the favorites Monday.
Each school has beaten the other at least once throughout the season, so Harrison thinks depth could end up making the difference.
“It is certainly an advantage to those teams and players who have been at state before,” Harrison said. “But I think every score is going to be important and those who can play under pressure, get hot and show maturity, will be the ones who will win.”