Taylor Thede comprised half of the Maquoketa girls golf team her freshman season.

"We couldn't even get a team score because there was just two of us," she said.

Three years later, the Cardinals have a full roster and are headed to the state tournament.

Powered by Thede, Maquoketa finished second at Monday's 12-team Class 3A regional at Davenport's Emeis Golf Course with a 396 total.

It will be the first time since the 2011 volleyball team Maquoketa has qualified a girls squad for a sanctioned state tournament.

"For the first two years, it would have been real easy for Taylor to say, 'I'm not doing this with no team. I'll go play soccer or do something else,'" co-coach Teri Taylor said. "For us as coaches, it's exciting she stayed with it, worked through the turbulence of not having a team and now being part of a team that has really bonded this year."

Maquoketa captured a girls state golf title in 2004.

Since then, the program has fallen on rough times. Taylor said it had six coaches in a seven-year span and participation dwindled.

"I went to the (activities director) and said we've got to do something to get more kids out," Taylor said.

Taylor started coaching junior high volleyball and made connections to drum up interest. Thede recruited classmates.

The Cardinals had four members in Thede's sophomore year. They have 10 on the roster this season.

Thede had a back-nine 41 en route to a 91 on Monday, sixth in the individual race.

Washington, led by medalist Sarah Nacos' 77, cruised to the team title with a 341 total.

The Demons and Cardinals advance to the 36-hole state tournament next Tuesday and Wednesday at Coldwater Golf Links in Ames.

Davenport Assumption junior Olivia Leinart was third with an 85 and earned a spot as one of the top eight individuals. It will be Leinart's first trip to state.

It was particularly rewarding after missing out on the state tournament last year after having what she called one of her worst rounds.

"That really motivated me to work harder this year," Leinart said.

Leinart, who had a 74 at the city meet last week, started golfing in fifth grade. After losing interest for a short time, she picked it back up as a freshman.

"Ever since then, I've been in love with it," she said.

Leinart played five or six tournaments last summer to sharpen her competitive edge. She had one of the best stroke averages in the Mississippi Athletic Conference this spring.

"I have a more solid swing, and I've put a lot of time into my short game which has really paid off," Leinart said.

Central DeWitt was third in the team race with a 412 and Assumption took fourth at 417.

Maquoketa, meanwhile, used its depth to advance. Juniors Carlene Paul, Hannah Gilson and Karysa Carson shot 100, 101 and 104, respectively, to round out the low four.

"This was a huge goal for us from the get-go," Thede said. "A month before the season, we said, 'This is the goal, this is what we really want to work toward.'

"It is awesome that it happened, and to be part of a team that makes such big accomplishments. I'm so happy."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.