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#PrepTalkPreview: Girls golf -- In a surging sport in WNY, Clarence is the Section VI team to beat

2015 champions: Section VI -- Clarence. Monsignor Martin -- Sacred Heart.

Back for more: Clarence will be a scary matchup for any team in Section VI, as the entire undefeated championship squad is back. The group is led by Alexis Kim, who bested seniors Sarah Godfrey-Singleton and Marissa DelMonaco, two titans in Western New York golf last year, to win the individual Section VI title. She shot a 9-over par 83 on a windy day at Gowanda Country Club.

"Alexis Kim was always the girl that finished in third," said Depew coach and Section VI chairman Rick Wargala. "Well, last year she beat both of those young ladies to clinch."

Junior Elena Lopez was a Section VI states teammate with Kim, finishing fifth with a 91 at the State Qualifiers. The group is rounded out by senior Julia Conroy, senior Macie Attea and sophomore Brenna Callahan. All five golfers finished in the top 15 at the State Qualifiers.

Biggest competition: If any team can knock the Red Devils off the top, odds are it will be Williamsville East. The Flames return junior Amanda Gaffney, a member of the Section VI team, and senior Simone Riter, who was on the state team in 2014. They finished eighth and 12th at the State Qualifiers, respectively.

Better than ever: It'd be fair to say the girls golf scene in Buffalo is vibrant.

Elena Lopez of Clarence hits a tee shot during the 2015 Section VI girls golf championships. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

Elena Lopez of Clarence hits a tee shot during the 2015 Section VI girls golf championships. (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

The Msgr. Martin team took home the Catholic High School Athletic Association Championship last May at Silver Lake Golf Course on Staten Island. Nardin's Sarah Beckwith won the individual championship by shooting a par on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff match. Sacred Heart won its fourth straight title last year, going 10-0 during the season.

The interest in the sport at a high school level has picked up steam since Section VI added it seven years ago, culminating in the states squad placing second in the Spring, the highest finish in section history. The group finished 76 strokes behind first-place Section I and bested third-place Section XI by one stroke.

Section VI is also adding Medina to the list of schools that offer golf this season.

Nichols' talented program hits the links in the spring, as do some Southern Tier teams.

Young blood: One member of that state team that stood out was Depew's Jersey Phillips, the only middle schooler on the team. Phillips finished seventh at the state qualifiers, an outstanding finish when you factor in her age. She was one of two middle school golfers in the tournament, with the other finishing third from the bottom.

Lone wolves: Two players competed as one-person teams last year, Emily Schreiber of East Aurora and Ashleigh Hildreth of Sweet Home. Both are back for 2016, but Schreiber may be getting a teammate. The two would follow another team for match schedules, Schreiber with Depew and Hildreth with Williamsville North.

Championship time: All-Catholic Championship, Oct. 1 at Rothlands Golf Course; Section VI championships, May 17, 2017 at River Oaks Country Club. 9:30 a.m.; New York State Public High School Athletic Association Tournament June 2-4, 2017 at Bethpage State Park. State Catholic Tournament TBA 2017.

Who’s going to be Prep Talk Player of the Year? Kim has to be a big favorite. There could be some friendly competition between teammates, as Lopez is also a strong candidate.

Prep Talk Player of the Year for girls golf: Maren Cipolla, Nichols

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