It is getting late in the high school golf season, so a battle of undefeated teams carries some extra meaning.
Class 2A Alleman (9-0) faces Riverdale (11-0) this afternoon on the Rams' home course, Byron Hills, in Port Byron.
“That’s going to be a good one,” said junior Ryan Rochholz, the Pioneers’ No. 1 player. “They play great at that course, and we are going to have to play great to beat them.”
Riverdale just won its own Brinkmeier Invitational at Byron Hills on Saturday, topping the second-place Pioneers by seven strokes.
“They are definitely a top team,” said junior Gabe Beardsley, the Pioneers' No. 2. “And they are going to be our toughest competition in a dual meet this year.”
But while the dual is important, the Pioneers understand it pales in comparison to what is left on the schedule.
“It would be nice to know that we are undefeated,” senior captain Hunter Love said. “But the regular season, I don’t think it’s as big a deal. It’s just a lot of practice for us for what really matters. And that’s conference and regionals and on from there.”
The Pioneers have gone 27-4 in duals the last three years, winning the Western Big Six for the first time in school history two years ago.
But taking third last year after beating Quincy and Galesburg at meets during the regular season has reminded the Pioneers what matters is what happens the day of the meet.
“I am not going to make any predictions because every day is a different day," Alleman’s longtime golf coach, Gene Elsner, said. “If we play up to form, and everybody else plays as we have seen them all year long, I think we have as good of chance as anybody.”
Alleman’s postseason run begins with the Western Big Six meet.
“It would definitely make our team one of the best to come through Alleman in the last few years,” Rochholz said.
The Pioneers didn’t expect to be undefeated in duals at this point in the season.
The season is going better because of the work the top six — which also includes freshman Luke Lofgren, junior Cole Ramsey and senior Nate Musal — have put in during the summer, Beardsley said.
“All of our top six have worked hard and been playing in tournaments, going against some tough competition,” he said.
Ramsey and Musal were junior varsity players a year ago, but both put in a lot of time resulting in improvement, Elsner said. Lofgren really “stepped up” to play No. 4.
Love says this year’s team is as good as the last two Pioneer golf teams.
“I think we are definitely as good as we were the last two years,” he said. “We definitely can improve from where we are.”
After the Riverdale meet, Alleman is at the Galesburg Invitational on Saturday followed by the conference meet at Oakwood Country Club next week.
“We’ve got our sights set fairly high,” Elsner said. “We are hoping to win a conference tournament, and would like to advance to the sectional and get a team to state.
“It’s going to be very, very difficult to do that. There’s some unbelievable talent at the 2A level.”
But first comes conference, which can put several members of this team uniquely in the Alleman record books a second time.
“Our team is super talented,” Love said. “And it’s definitely not going to be easy … but I think we can do it.”