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Esky girls top UP D1 Finals

Justin St. Ours | Daily Press The Escanaba girls golf team poses with its D1 U.P. Girls Golf Finals trophy Wednesday at Sweetgrass golf course in Harris. Pictured from left: Sophia Derkos, Peyton Wellman, Annika Wangrud, Cierra Scott, Maddie Wilson and Escanaba assistant coach Jake Berlinski.

HARRIS — Persistence paid off for the Escanaba girls here Wednesday as they earned their first Upper Peninsula Division 1 golf title in four years with 411 strokes.

They were followed by Negaunee 417 and Marquette 422, Westwood 431 and two-time defending champion Menominee 440.

“The girls really came through,” said Esky assistant coach Jake Berlinski. “Last year, they were playing for the first time. This year is a little bit different. They made it a sport they really care about. We ask a lot of these girls. They miss a lot of school, which is stressful for them. We’ve been asking them to miss two days a week for the last five weeks.”

Esky junior Cierra Scott took fourth with 90 strokes, finishing two places higher than a year ago.

“I’ve been more consistent with my long game,” she said. “My drives were pretty good today, but putting is something I need to work on. Going into this season, taking the team title was top priority. Our team has improved so much. We were behind Marquette all year. A lot of people doubted us, and we wanted to show what we were made of. We just kept playing our game.”

Negaunee junior Rachel Niskanen, who carded an 82, secured her first title by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the No. 18 hole.

Menominee senior Madison Derusha had a chance to force a playoff hole, then narrowly missed an 18-foot eagle putt before settling for runner-up honors at 83.

“I started with par on the back nine, then I double-bogeyed the next three holes,” said Niskanen, who led by six strokes at one time on the back nine. “Both of us had bogeys.

“She was five down going into 11. It was really intense. I just tried to take it one stroke at a time and reminded myself that I couldn’t change the past. I just had to focus on the future. On the 18th hole, I could have gone for it, then I decided to play it safe.”

Derusha, whose shot for eagle rimmed out of the cup, plans to continue playing golf at Michigan State University.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” she said. “It would have been nice to get the eagle, but it was still nice to get a birdie on my last high school hole. Both of us were as nervous as could be. I have to stay as positive as I can and be proud of the way I finished. I will be doing club golf in my first year. Then, I’ll play varsity golf as a sophomore. It will be a big learning curve.”

Westwood senior Jillian Koski, who sank a hole-in-one on No. 12 in Tuesday’s practice round, placed third with 89 on this sunny and mild Wednesday at Sweetgrass Golf Club.

“On the front nine, I had a 40,” said Koski, who will also attend MSU this fall to major in business management. “My putting was going real well, then my putts weren’t falling anymore on the back nine. I was nervous. I wanted to do as well as I did on the front nine. I won’t be playing varsity golf, but Madi and I will be roommates at Michigan State. And, we’ll play some recreational golf together. I think that will be fun.”

Iron Mountain’s Redeit Husing placed fifth at 93, three strokes more than Scott.

“My putts weren’t very good, but you’re never going to have a perfect round,” said Scott. “You can come close, although it’s highly unlikely you’re going to get that perfect round. I wasn’t playing my best golf in the beginning of the season and was getting down on myself. Then, I kind of changed my mentality.”

Berlinski often refers to Scott as captain.

“Last year, we weren’t sure if we’d have a full team,” he said. “Cierra recruited some players and brought them along with her. She earned that name. Cierra had some early-season struggles and shot scores that were uncharacteristic for her, but good players find a way to get through that stuff, and Cierra played her best golf in the end. This is a nice feather in the hat for somebody who’s inspiring to be a college golfer. She’ll play somewhere. She’ll find a home.

“I appreciate the casino for letting us use their facilities here and at Sage Run and host the U.P. Finals here.”

Marquette coach Ben Smith was pleased with how this day turned out.

“The course is in awesome shape (at the Island Resort & Casino), and we had great weather for the tournament,” he added. “Although, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to play golf out there. There were a couple great scores out there. Our numbers were pretty good. Credit to Escanaba. All year they’ve been playing pretty solid, and Negaunee had a real good score. We have such a short season up here. The weather sometimes makes it challenging, but it was super nice out here today.”

U.P. Division 1 Girls’ Golf Finals

At Sweetgrass Golf Club

All-tournament team — 1, Rachel Niskanen, Negaunee, 82; 2, Madison Derusha, Menominee, 83; 3, Jillian Koski, Westwood, 89; 4, Cierra Scott, Escanaba, 90; 5, Redeit Husing, Iron Mountain, 93.

Escanaba (411) — Cierra Scott 90, Sophie Derkos 100, Peyton Wellman 108, Annika Wangrud 113.

Negaunee (417) — Rachel Niskanen 82, Summer Dudo 109, Marissa Hird and Daylyn Drew 113.

Marquette (422) — Abby Luke 97, Zoe Smith 99, Addy Saunders 111, Lexi Smith 115.

Westwood (431) — Jillian Koski 89, Laci Moffatt 95, Kalle Keranen 121, Kaytlin Williams 128.

Menominee (440) — Madison Derusha 83, Hanna Drifka 117, Marin Park 119, Mackenzie Doyle 121.

Kingsford (444) — Grace Maki 103, Bryonna Sanders 105, Ella Rizzo 117, Maggie Menghini 119.

Houghton (499) — Keegan Leonard 120, Meghan Trewhella 125, Tara Scullion 126, Micaela Geborkoff 128.

Calumet (562) — Lily Kargela 119, Ryleigh Johnson 134, Kadence Stites 151, Allie Alger 158.

Sault Ste. Marie (575) — Elizabeth Ohman 120, Grace Swanson 130, Ava Stark 162, Lexi Landis 163.

Ironwood (609) — Ella Darrow 120, Madison Sterbenz 137, Hannah Castillo 171, Yoho Sin 181.

Iron Mountain (NTS) — Redeit Husing 93, Natalia Brown 122, Bella Rosenthal 135.

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