The Lincoln Southwest girls have won all but two golf tournament to date this season.
They have carded some of the lowest scores in school history, including a school-record 304. Their varsity lineup includes some of the state's top golfers, and the Silver Hawks are among the favorites to win a second straight Class A state championship.
And yet, not much about how Southwest has pieced together quite possibly the best season in program history has come easy.
The Silver Hawks spent a good chunk of the season scratching and clawing after the team's Nos. 3 and 4 golfers were sidelined by non-golf injuries and setbacks.
The team got sophomore Neely Adler and junior Sadie Steele back late in the season, but then a medical issue prevented senior Brynn Sundquist, the team's No. 2 golfer, from playing in the conference meet. Sundquist and Kate Strickland, the team's No. 1 golfer, also were held out of the Lincoln East tournament because they were nearing their limit of nine tournaments.
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So it wasn't until last Monday's district tournament when the Silver Hawks had their original lineup — Strickland, Sundquist, Adler, Steele and Tatum Terwilliger — back together for the first time in nearly a month.
Back at full strength, Southwest shot a district-record score of 317. Strickland shot a 66, Sundquist a 79 and Adler an 84, and coach Jim Danson said Adler's performance was key in Southwest being able to shoot low.
Now the Silver Hawks take aim at a state title at Norfolk Country Club, and they believe the midseason adversity made them stronger.
"I think it has really made us more connected overall," said Sundquist, the team's only senior. "Having those hardships in the past, we've kind of had to fight harder and be stronger as a team and work together in order to come out with victories. Right now we're all in a really good place where we're all very connected and on the same wavelength with how we want to compete."
Southwest shot a then-school-record 315 at the Beatrice Invitational on Aug. 27. It shattered the record three days later with a 304 at Awarii Dunes in Kearney. A 324 followed.
Southwest was then without Adler and Steele for multiple tournaments. But it allowed for others to step in and help the varsity team.
"I think anytime you have the mentality of next person up, I think that's the best thing because it kind of helped the younger kids to see and get some some experience on what it feels like in a varsity tournament," Danson said. "One of the benefits of this year, because of our situation, was some of my younger players got a huge amount of experience."
Danson pointed to Terwilliger. The freshman took on a bigger part knowing her scores were going to be counting toward the team score.
"I think that really helped her mentally get stronger and really have a different mindset," Danson added. "I think that carried over at district golf."
The leadership of Sundquist and Strickland also has played a key role, Danson said. Their play has matched it. Strickland, who placed third at state last year, has won eight tournaments this year and Sundquist has several top-three finishes.
"We all have a part of the team and we all need to be shooting our averages to make sure that we can do what the team is capable of," Strickland said. "I think we all learned a big lesson from just to get through adversity and how to really keep a positive mindset even when things are not going our way."
State golf is Monday and Tuesday at Norfolk Country Club (Class A), Elks Country Club (Columbus) and Lake Maloney Golf Course (North Platte).
Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.