WEIRTON - The Blue Dons and Irish appear to be on a collision course.
The Madonna and Charleston Catholic golf teams have finished first or second in the last four West Virginia Class AA State Tournaments. The Blue Dons captured a state title in 2010. The Irish came out on top in 2009, 2011 and in 2012.
TOURNAMENT PREPARATION — The Madonna golf team won its fifth straight OVAC?championship last week. The Blue Dons are preparing for the West Virginia Class A?regional tournament next week, with hopes of another state championship opportunity. From left, Alex Colantonio, Thomas Gianni, Hunter Payne, head coach T.J. Brancazio, Nick Mazur, Michael Rogers and Matthew Lyons.
Charleston Catholic has finished either first or second at the state tournament in each of the last seven years.
As the regular season winds down, the Blue Dons have won more than 60 matches with only 11 defeats.
So far this season, Madonna won the OVAC Class A Tournament, the Spring Hills Fall Classic as well as the Williams Country Club Invitational.
"I'm happy with how the season has gone," Madonna head coach T.J. Brancazio said. "We are very deep. The kids are playing with a lot of confidence. We have six good kids, but you can only play four at regionals and states. The bad thing is you can only play four. Our top four is solid, but we may take our fifth or sixth player if they are playing better. At states, you can only play four, but we might need our fifth or sixth player."
The Blue Dons have won five straight OVAC tournaments.
"It is always nice to win the OVACs," Brancazio said. "Crispin is not an easy course. We shot pretty well. Whenever you can shoot in the low 70s, it is always good. "
The Blue Dons are led on the links this season by seniors Michael Rogers, Alex Colantonio and Thomas Gianni.
"I have played pretty well," Rogers said. "We have had a pretty good season."
Colantonio said he has not played as well as he had hoped this season.
"I have played all right this year," he said. "I haven't played as well as I have wanted, but I am hitting the ball better.
"The season has gone well. We won the OVAC Tournament. We won the Fall Classic. We won the Williams Invitational."
Gianni is happy with how he has played this season.
"My season has gone well," he said. "I am pretty happy with how it is going so far."
The Blue Dons have high expectations for the remainder of the season.
"Our season has gone pretty well so far," Gianni said. "We want to be state champs."
Though they hope to be state champions, the Blue Dons still have a way to go before they can make that dream a reality.
"We are getting set for regionals," Brancazio said. "Our regional is tougher this year. Wheeling Central has improved. St. Marys is good. They have beaten us twice down there. I think we have a good shot at states."
Rogers is at his best on the golf course when he is driving the ball onto the fairway.
"I would say hitting the fairway is my strength," Rogers said. "If I can hit fairways, then I can hit greens."
When things go wrong, the Blue Dons are able to handle and overcome adversity on the course.
"Our mental toughness is our strength," Colantonio said. "We don't get down if we hit a bad shot. We keep grinding."
The Blue Dons do what they have to do in order to be successful.
"We are all grinders," Rogers said. "We all play until the very end. We don't ever give up."
No matter the sport, communication between teammates is important.
"We all communicate well," Gianni said. "That is the best thing we do."
Another strength of the team is the players' willingness to help each other out.
"Everyone helps each other out," Gianni said.
The Blue Don golfers have spent countless hours on the course in an effort to improve their games.
"Our kids play together," Brancazio said. "Our top three have been playing together for nine years. They have been members at Williams Country Club. They play constantly. They will go by themselves and play. They just don't play during the high school season. They play all year round."
The golfers are friends off of the course.
"They have good camaraderie," Brancazio said. "They root for each other. They help each other. They are constantly working on their game. The pro and assistant pro at Williams have helped them with different things. They have done a pretty good job."
While some players and teams will fold under the pressure of playing in the big tournaments at the end of the season, the Blue Dons are used to play high-pressure golf.
"Winning puts a little pressure on us, but we are pretty confident," Gianni said.
Colantonio said the team's success doesn't put any more pressure on the team heading into the postseason.
"Having won in the past doesn't really put any more pressure on us. We have confidence. We are going to try and not change anything."
Winning big tournaments such as the OVAC Tournament this season will help Madonna down the stretch.
"Winning OVACs was a pretty big deal," Rogers said.
"It was our fifth time in a row to do it. Winning it doesn't put pressure on us. We play well at that course."
Winning the conference tournament again is definitely one of the highlights for the Blue Dons so far this season.
"Winning OVACs was a big win for us, especially to win it again our senior year," Colantonio said.
Gianni also said winning the conference tournament was a special thing for the team to accomplish once again this year.
"Winning OVACs was awesome," he said. "It was very nice."
Gianni added, "Winning OVACs was pretty awesome. It was my second time. It was pretty cool."
Madonna still has a couple more regular season matches scheduled before heading to the regional tournament. The Blue Dons are not looking past their final two matches of the season.
"We try not to look ahead through matches," Rogers said. "We want it to take it match by match. We want to get to states."
The golf season is in the home stretch, but you can't win a state title if you don't make it to Wheeling.
"Getting to the state tournament is our ultimate goal," Colantonio said. "We are going to take it one match at a time."
Gianni agreed with his teammates about not looking too far into the future.
"We are going to take it one step at a time," he said.
Though it is late in the season, the Blue Dons continue to work hard to improve their performance.
"I am working on my chipping and my putting," Colantonio said.
Gianni is also working on his putting.
"At practice, I work on my putting, definitely," he said.
The Blue Dons are not in need of a major overhaul, but a little fine tuning never hurt anyone.
"We are going to keep working," Brancazio said. "We are going to fine tune some stuff. We are going to get ready for regionals. The regional tournament is at our home course, and that's a good thing."
The West Virginia Class A Region 1 Tournament will be held Sept. 30 at Williams Country Club.
"The regional is a big tournament," Rogers said. "The tournament is here, so that is a pretty good thing for us."
The Blue Dons are excited about playing in the regional tournament on their home course.
"It is nice that regionals is at home. We are going to take it one match at a time," Colantonio said.
The state tournament is scheduled to be held Oct. 8-9 in Wheeling.
"Speidel is a tough course," Gianni said.
Throughout the season, Madonna has seen many of the teams it will see once postseason play begins.
"We have seen some of the teams we will play in the regionals," Gianni said.
"At states, Charleston Catholic is good. Since we have played them, we have a better understanding of them."
Madonna's next scheduled match is a quad-match on Tuesday with Brooke, Beaver Local and Wheeling Park at 3:30 p.m. at Williams County Club.
"I want to thank our coach for all that he has done for us over the years," Colantonio said. "He is a really good coach."