Smithtown East's quest for the 2012 Long Island girls golf championship began last year on the bus ride home after losing the championship match to Garden City Maroon, when the team told coach Bob Woods that they would do whatever it took to get another shot.
"They didn't hang their heads for one moment," Woods recalled. "They lost to a great team, but they said 'Next year is gonna be the year.' It speaks to how motivated they are and how hard they work."
The Bulls came into the year after graduating the top two players from last year's team that went undefeated and won the Suffolk championship, both of which were firsts for the program. But Woods was confident in his group, led by experienced seniors Carly Peters, Lindsay Selman and Casey Pollock and youthful eighth-graders Peyton Greco, Alex Niven and Cassie Hall.
"We had girls who were waiting in the wings ready to step in and do great things," Woods said.
This year's team was even more successful, again going undefeated and winning another Suffolk title with a county-record score of 882. Peters, Hall and Selman qualified for the state tournament with Niven as the first alternate.
After winning the Long Island championship, Woods reflected on where the program came from. The girls golf team was started in the 2006-07 school year, winning just two matches in its first season.
"It's been a steady improvement," Woods said. "We went from a team that won two matches to a team that won a league title to a team that won back-to-back county titles and now a Long Island championship. It's been fun for me to watch this program grow to what it is now."
Woods attributes the growth to the environment provided at Smithtown Landing Country Club, where the team practices and plays its home matches.
"I always thought we could reach this level, mainly because of the community I work in," he said. "[Director of golf] Michael Hebron and his staff have created a learning environment for the girls at Smithtown Landing that's second to none."
Smithtown East will lose six golfers to graduation, but the future looks bright with the three eighth-graders and players who will move up from junior varsity.
Still, it will be hard to reach the level of this year's squad, which Woods said is possibly one of the best teams Long Island has ever had.
"There's a lot of camaraderie with this team, which is unique for an individual sport like golf," Woods said. "I can't say enough good things about them. It's been a privilege and an honor for me to work with this group of girls."
The girls have good things to say about their coach, as well.
"Coach Woods has been an inspiration to all of us throughout this year," Peters said. "He's not only a great coach, he's an awesome person."