The Berlin High girls golf team became the first school to win three consecutive state championships in the 11-year history of CIAC-sanctioned girls golf. The Redcoats, however, may just be getting started.
Their two top golfers, Julia Kemmling and Ashley D'Attilio, are juniors-to-be. Abby Underwood will also be a junior. And although Berlin loses its senior co-captains, Caroline D'Attilio and Emily Deutsch, three straight titles may not be the ceiling.
“The girls have a vested interest in the team, they like the success, they want to continue that,” said Berlin coach Jim Barnes.
Kemmling earned medalist honors at the state championship and placed second at the New England tournament. Ashley D'Attilio tied for seventh and Underwood, golfing in the fifth spot, tied for 19th place as Berlin's score of 358 gave them the state championship at Orange Hills Country Club in June. Deutsch is headed for Clarkson and Caroline D'Attilio is UConn bound, but depth should remain Berlin's backbone.
“I think we definitely have the potential because we have a few freshmen and sophomores like Emma Atkinson and Theo Tomasitis who have been a big help to the team,” Kemmling said. “They have a lot of potential, so it's exciting to see that there's hope for the future.”
Atkinson experienced varsity play during the year when Underwood was out with a back injury, and after posting scores in the mid-40s, earned the team's “Most Improved Player Award.” Barnes believes Atkinson can be solid next year and Tomasitis has potential. Barnes said four freshmen, Carolyn Stickel, Megan Pskowski and Angie and Alex Perrone, are “thick as thieves.” He expects the four best friends to develop their games over this summer.
“I'm really optimistic as to what I'm going to get out of that group,” Barnes said.
“I think we have good years coming up, I'm not really worried about it,” Underwood said.
“We're a younger team but we have a lot of strong freshmen coming so the next few years we'll be just as strong,” Ashley D'Attilio said. “I'm excited for future years of golf.”
The responsibility for continued success falls on the juniors-to-be. Kemmling and Ashley D'Attilio led the team on the course, while Deutsch and Caroline D'Attilio kept the team organized and together.
Said Barnes: “We had great leadership this year ... but clearly as the season went on with Julia, Ashley and also Abby, you saw them becoming a bigger part of the team chemistry and a bigger part of the overall leadership. As we move past this year, clearly those are the girls that are going to be looked to continue the success of the program and the tradition.”
According to Barnes, the tradition of the team has helped Berlin get more kids on board. Winning and encouragement from older golfers is what gets the inexperienced golfers to work hard and improve. The Redcoats have developed closeness off the course that has translated to success on it.
It was that dynamic helped Berlin end the season with an exclamation point. After a 1-stroke loss to rival Farmington, they used what Barnes called “a smack in the face that helped wake the team up” as motivation. The Redcoats would go on to complete a 19-1 regular season, beat CCC runner-up Farmington by 26 strokes to capture the conference tournament crown before going on to win the state title. The Farmington loss was a turning point and the CCC win was a total team effort. Kemmling, the D'Attilios, Deutsch and Underwood made the all-tournament team.
Barnes is hopeful the team will be just as good next season. He admitted replacing celebrated, experienced golfers like Deutsch and D'Attilio is a hard task, but he doesn't have to think back far to the last time the reigning champions entered the year losing its two senior captains. Going into this season, the Redcoats had to replace two of their top golfers, Victoria Fagan and Emily Stickel.
“It turned out just fine,” Barnes said.