By: Staff Writer Andrew Chen
On April 23, the MSJHS boys’ golf team won first place at the MVAL (Mission Valley Athletic League) tournament for the first time in seven years, finishing with the third best score in MVAL boys’ golf history. This also concluded an undefeated season – a truly rare and commendable accomplishment – and placed them first in the league. This qualifies them for the NCS Tournament of Champions, from which they hope to move on to a NorCal Tournament. The Smoke Signal interviewed golf coach Jason Cain to discuss the team’s achievements and future.
Smoke Signal: What are some of the team’s accomplishments this year?
Jason Cain: We had an undefeated league season, had the third lowest MVAL score in history, and took second place in the Freedom Invitational earlier this year. For team overall scores, we had every single player shoot a 44 or better at least once this year, which means less than bogey golf. We also have four out of ten all-league selections, which are the top ten lowest tournament scores throughout.
SS: What was the team’s most important game this year?
JC: The most important game was the first league match against Irvington. Irvington’s beat us the last four years, head to head, and they’ve won the league championship. That was the match that really did matter. We knew going in to it that we had to score well, and it gave us a precedent of where we would be as a team. When we won that, we had the idea that we could beat Irvington. Another one of those big games was the first round of the MVAL tournament, because we had to make a statement. If we won that, getting second place or higher at the next round would solidify an overall first place finish.
SS: What do you hope for the future of the team?
JC: We have a very bright future. We had ten freshmen, four sophomores, two juniors and one senior come on the team this year, and the top six, the team that played at the MVAL tournament, was four freshmen, one sophomore, and one junior. I feel that for the next four years, we will continue to improve and get bigger and better. We will be able to compete at the highest level, against Foothill, De La Salle, and Monte Vista, the EBAL (East Bay Athletic League) teams that have owned boys’ golf for the last 20 years.
SS: Coming into this season, how did you feel? What did you hope to achieve?
JC: I felt very optimistic. I know that in the past, we have been kind of on a decline, since we weren’t getting a lot of new golfers every year. When golf sign-ups came up, and we had all those freshmen signed up, I was really excited. I knew a few of those freshmen from outside of school, and I didn’t expect first place, but I expected us to compete at a really high level this year, to take the first step in the right direction to where we want to be in the course of the next four years. The big goal is to move on past the Tournament of Champions, which would get us into a NorCal tournament.
SS: What matches and events are left for this season?
JC: On May 11, we have the Tournament of Champions at the Monarch Bay Golf Course in San Leandro. Besides that, it’s just practicing and preparing.
SS: How do you think the team’s efforts during practices helped them achieve their feats? Was there anything specific you stressed during practices?
JC: We do a lot of daily drills. Putting and chipping, the short game. I demanded a lot of them, and expected a lot of them in their putting, because putting is the key to everything. We would spend at least an hour and a half on our short game, and spend some time on the range, but the biggest thing was the short game and that they really bought into doing those drills to improve their short game. The team really loves to compete against each other. You can tell that they really all started to feel each other’s games and improvements, and their scores week in and week out would continue to get lower, and lower, and lower. In the end, they were kind of around the same scores. It’s really encouraging to see what time and work they put into it in the offseason and where they will end up next year.
SS: Any stand-out players?
JC: Vijay Sririvasan, a sophomore, was a really strong hold on our team last year as a freshman, and this year he really took his game to the next level. He’s been by far our number one golfer, strong week in and week out, no matter what. At the first round of the MVAL tournament he took second place with a three under par, which was really impressive.