Liberty girls golf preparing for nationals

The Liberty High School girls golf team includes, from left, Annika Gutierrez, Kaitlin Anderson, Brooke McGlasson, Annika Saida, Kea Kohatsu, Mattison Frick, Mariela Bieberach and Teaen Sweet. (Liberty High School/Submitted)

After winning the D1 Arizona State Girls Golf title, the Liberty High Lions are preparing to compete at the highest level of high school sports: nationals.

Liberty High won its first state title this past November when the Lions defeated 37-time champion Xavier Prep by 3 strokes in the tournament to claim the trophy.

Taking place from Monday, June 27, to Wednesday, June 29, the Lions will compete against over 150 other golfers from across the country at the National High School Golf Association (NHSGA) 2022 High School Golf National Invitational.

The Pinehurst, North Carolina, tourney is Liberty High School’s first national competition.

Once head coach Kyle Pooler took over the program, the team finished fifth in the state tournament. The expectations then became to finish in the top three, but Pooler wanted to reach higher.

He said the state championship was “absolutely” the goal going into the 2021 season.

“We need to be working for the state championship, because what else? What else are we doing if we’re not working to the state championship?” Pooler said. “I kept telling the girls we have the ability to win the state championship and we just have to put our mindset at that, and this is our goal. That’s it. We’re going to win the state championship, and we need everything that we do to be focused on that.”

As the team progressed through the tournament en route to the championship, the victory validated Pooler’s beliefs and confidence in the team.

The team’s roster is stacked from top to bottom in talent with a few already committed to playing at the collegiate level. Graduated senior Mattison Frick is committed to playing at the University of Illinois while senior Brooke McGlasson is committed to playing at the University of Denver.

“I knew they had it in them,” Pooler said. “It was just a matter of putting it together for two days right at the end. We worked really hard throughout the season all the way up to that moment and that point. And then for them to be able to perform for those two days, the way that I knew that they were capable of performing, was just pretty special.”

With the team’s victory at the state level, they earned an invitation to nationals.

Frick previously competed in the 2021 national tournament as an individual, placing second out of 300 players with one stroke behind the top spot.

“I think this year, (Frick) is going to be able to relax a little bit, and hopefully she can go out and show everybody what she’s about before she heads off to Illinois,” Pooler said.

Over the last seven months, the girls have been training for the biggest tournaments of their lives so far. Since it’s the offseason, Pooler has been hands-off as far as training goes, and the girls have been preparing on their own.

With time spent apart, Pooler has had time to think about what advice to give to his team. The main theme of his advice is to enjoy the experience.

“We have nothing to lose at all,” Pooler said. “It’s just going out and having fun and taking a minute and enjoying the experience. But that’s all that we’re trying to do, is create a moment that they can live with for the rest of their life and just enjoy it and be able to reflect back on it and be like, ‘Man, that was so unbelievable. That was so much fun.’ And that’s all that I ask of them.”