Hailey Stanius takes her shot on the second hole of University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course on Thursday, April 28. 

The Forest Lake girls golf team notched its third victory in eight Suburban East Conference events this spring while holding off conference front-runner East Ridge by seven shots at the University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course on Thursday, April 28.

The Rangers turned in a total of 181 to avoid the three teams separated by just one shot in second through fourth place. East Ridge won a tie-breaker for second with White Bear Lake after both teams posted scores of 188 and Stillwater was one shot back in fourth at 189.

Forest Lake received solid scores throughout the lineup, led by Taylor Thompson’s 43. The eighth grader tied Stillwater’s Caroline Monty (43) and Taylar Nadler (43) of Park for runner-up honors behind individual medalist Olivia Salonek (40) of Roseville.

Freshman and returning state qualifier Bella Leonhart was next for the Rangers with a 45. Junior Malia McKinnon added a 46 and senior Donelle Decker completed the scoring with a 47, just ahead of teammates Hailey Stanius (50) and Greta Krieger (51).

“It actually was a good round for the most part by all of my girls,” Rangers coach Andrea Brischke said. “It was nice to see Thompson be the low scorer for the first time. Bella Leonhart is our workhorse that gets us that good score, but she had a couple of hiccups and Taylor came in and played really well and Donelle also played really well for us. It was a couple of different people that really came through for us.”

Forest Lake’s other first-place finishes occurred at Prestwick on April 11 and River Oaks on April 21.

There has been plenty of movement among the top five teams in the conference this season, a far cry from a year ago when Stillwater won 10 of 12 SEC events.

“It’s great to really be competing with East Ridge and Stillwater and then Roseville comes in and shoots some good scores, too,” Brischke said. “For us to have won three of the SEC matches has exceeded my expectations to a degree because I know Stillwater and East Ridge had some back and I lost a couple on my team. But these girls — in these conditions — they don’t complain and they work really hard and now know they can compete with those top teams.”

The parity was on display again with the Rangers sliding to fourth in an SEC match on Monday, May 2, at White Bear Yacht Club. East Ridge took top honors to extend its overall conference lead with a total of 180. Roseville (185) and Stillwater (195) followed in second and third while the Rangers landed fourth — without Taylor in the lineup — with a score of 203.

“I think this is a lot more fun, at least for me, where every putt is very important,” Brischke said. “We saw that last week in a match we lost by one shot. On the ninth hole everyone of them might have dropped one or two shots and you lose that match. Every single shot they have to grind it out for 9 or 18 holes now because other schools are very competitive and we’re all very similar.”

Leonhart paced the Rangers with a 41, just two shots behind Salonek from Roseville, who secured medalist honors with a 39. McKinnon (53), Krieger (54) and Stanius (55) completed the scoring for Forest Lake.

The Rangers also finished fourth with a total of 360 in an 18-hole conference event at Oneka Ridge Golf Course on Wednesday, April 27. Stillwater prevailed in the team standings with a score of 341 while East Ridge (354) and Roseville (356) followed in second and third.

Leonhart led the way with a 79 while Thompson (93), Krieger (94) and Stanius (94) were packed together among the team’s four scorers.

“The girls are playing really hard,” Brischke said. “I’m extremely pleased with where we are. We want to be playing our best golf on June 1 for sections and we’re getting to that portion right now with the weather where we’re able to practice on the driving range. The team has exceeded my expectations for the middle of the season.”

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