Five Hernando County female links squads begin the trek Monday afternoon toward the 63rd annual FHSAA Finals in Lake County, set for Oct. 30-31.
Three local teams – Hernando, Nature Coast and Weeki Wachee – will journey to Rivard Golf Club to take part in the expected eight-team Class 1A, District 8 Tournament beginning at 1 p.m.
Only the top three teams and top three individuals not associated with those three teams will advance to the Oct.22 Class 1A, Region III Tournament at Black Bear Golf Club in Eustis.
Meanwhile, Springstead and Central will venture to Ocala's Pine Oaks Golf Club for the expected 12-team Class 2A, District 5 Girls Tournament beginning at 12:30 p.m.
The top three teams and top three individuals not associated with those three teams will advance to the Oct. 23 Class 2A, Region II Tournament at Ocala Golf Club.
Despite Nature Coast's second-place finish in Tuesday's nine-hole Hernando County Championship to Springstead at The Heather Golf and Country Club in Weeki Wachee, the Lady Sharks believe they can hoist the tallest trophy late Monday afternoon.
Head coach Cheryl Paradis is convinced defending 1A-8 runner-up Nature Coast can make up the 50-stroke difference (355-404) from last year's tournament to topple defending champion Pasco.
The remainder of the field is expected to feature: South Sumter, Crystal River, Hernando, Dunnellon, Bishop McLaughlin and Weeki Wachee.
Nature Coast concluded regular season play at 4-3. The Lady Sharks fell twice to 2A-5 member Springstead by 31 and 34 strokes.
Against archrival Hernando, Nature Coast solved the Lady Leopards by 48 and 12 strokes, and fell by 13 shots.
Nature Coast retains three starters from season's squad including seniors Kae Elliott and Cassidy Verdi, and junior Kaitlyn Glynn.
Elliott, a four-year letterman, enters as the team leader in scoring averaging at 44.4 shots per nine holes. Elliott, a three-time All-County selection, finished tied for second with Central senior Stephanie Rodney on Tuesday with a 41.
Elliott's teammates include freshman Maddy Pickersgill (57.8), Verdi (62.6), sophomore Taylor Zack (63.6) and Glynn (64.1).
Paradis, in her fifth season at the helm, believes her team could add district champion to its resume.
"I think we're going in very strong," admitted Paradis. "I don't believe Pasco has the team they had last year. Unfortunately, we haven't played them (during the regular season). But our team's number threes and number fours have cut 20 strokes off their totals. We're heading in the right direction.
"So far, Kae (Elliott) and Maddy (Pickersgill) have been real consistent. Now, we know the entire team has to play well on Monday," added Paradis.
Paradis also addressed the issue of playing at nearby Rivard – which is practically in the Lady Sharks' backyard.
"It's only a couple miles to Rivard – it's that close," smiled Paradis. "We're playing (practicing) on it a couple times before Monday. Rivard is not a disadvantage to us. It's not a killer course. There's some water and the greens are pretty flat. I really think it's a good course for us to play."
Hernando concluded regular-season play 5-4-1 overall and finished third in the recent county tournament.
Junior foreign exchange student Eugenia Urso paces the Leopards with a 44.7 average. Urso placed fourth in the county meet with a 43.
After Urso, the remainder of the Lady Leopard squad features freshman Lauren Moore (60.3), senior Alexis Owensby (60.3), junior Taylor Milligan (62.3), senior Amanda Miller (65.0) and senior Ainsley Halliday (65.7).
Miller led the Leopards in districts in 2011 with a 120.
Weeki Wachee (0-9-0), which placed fourth in this week's five-team county tourney, is led by senior Vanessa Moore (55.3).
Last fall, the Class 2A, District 5 Tournament in Marion County featured the top three teams separated by two shots.
A year later, defending district champ Lecanto (403 total), district runner-up Springstead (404) and Ocala-Forest (405) are once again penciled in as frontrunners. Zephyrhills (412) looms as the district dark horse.
Springstead, which captured its fifth straight county championship Tuesday, returns its entire squad from last fall's heartbreaking one-stroke loss.
The Lady Eagles are buoyed by senior Megan Berube. Berube, a three-time All-County pick and Player of the Year, has earned medalist honors twice and finished runner-up once at districts.
Berube enters districts behind a Hernando County-leading 39.6 nine-hole average.
On Tuesday, Berube tuned up for districts by capturing her third Hernando County championship with a two-over-par 35.
The remainder of the Lady Eagles' squad features: junior Kylie Van Meter (50.0), senior Emma Betters (50.1), junior Kiki Schau (50.9) and senior Kearstin Yarbrough (60.1).
Like Coach Paradis at Nature Coast, defending Hernando Today Coach of the Year Kathleen Long of Springstead believes her team will depart Marion County with hardware.
"Yes, I definitely think we can win it (districts)," she said. "The most encouraging thing has been our consistency and our teamwork all year. Each of the girls pulls for everyone else. Even when our two top players had a bad day, the other three have all come through."
On the team's greatest asset, "This is the same team as last year, but only more experienced," noted Coach Long, whose team finished its third straight unbeaten regular season. "Each of our girls has cut strokes to get here."
On playing Pine Oaks, "We hear it's a pretty manageable course – it might be a little closer to The Heather as far as playing like a smaller course," she said.
On the state of the team, "We understand whatever we've done to now doesn't matter. Come Monday, everyone starts new," said Coach Long.
Central, which finished eighth in 2A-5 in 2011, is coming off Tuesday's fifth-place finish at The Heather.
The Lady Bears (2-6-1) are led by Rodney. Rodney, who carded an 18-hole 78 last fall in districts, arrives averaging a team-best 40.6 strokes per nine holes.