The past two seasons, the Nature Coast girls golf team hasn’t done a whole lot of losing. The Lady Sharks haven’t dropped a regular-season match during that span, collected two district crowns and even added a regional title last year.
So far in 2017, the only opponent they haven’t managed to overcome is Mother Nature. In two weeks, they’ve only completed nine holes once, against a Central squad that couldn’t even field a full lineup.
But Nature Coast hopes to keep playing deep into the postseason once again, having gotten a taste of having its entire team playing at states a year ago.
It’s top two players, senior Skylar Muscianese and junior Alexis Dross, are no doubt keys to whether or not the Lady Sharks have a repeat performance this go-round.
“When you think of Nature Coast girls golf, you think of Skylar,” Nature Coast head coach Dave Pisarcik said. “Dross has played well, too. We’ve got two players capable of posting the lowest score. If one is struggling, it’s great to have another option. There’s not too many teams that have a duo that can be that good.”
Indeed, Muscianese is the most credentialed and experienced golfer on the local circuit. She has posted the county’s lowest scoring average the past three seasons, and is a two-time district champion and state qualifier.
But Dross has been the county’s second-best golfer in terms of scoring average over her first two prep campaigns, and was the district runner-up to Muscianese a year ago.
“Skylar, it’s her work ethic,” Pisarcik said. “She’s the first one on the course, the last one to leave. She’s dedicated and committed to the game, and that’s what sets her apart. Her knowledge and the way she handles herself on the golf course makes her good and makes us good on the course. She sets the tone for our whole golf team.
“Dross, she’s an athlete. She can hit a lot of shots long off the tee, and with her short game when she plays well she’s just as good as anybody.”
For Dross, it has been a steady ascension. She started playing when she was 4, begging her father to take her with him when he would meet with business contacts on the golf course.
“I’ve been playing for a long time, so it’s something I like to do,” Dross said. “It’s part of my daily routine. I do it every day. My dad showed me and I just kept at it.”
However, she took a break during her middle school days to compete in basketball, something she continued doing at Nature Coast the past two years.
Still, golf remained her passion and the sport she felt she’d continue playing beyond high school. She had been considering dropping basketball, she said, when the decision was essentially made for her. After tearing her ACL last season, she opted against surgery that would necessitate a 6-9-month recovery.
The knee injury doesn’t impact her while golfing, Dross said, and she has tried to particularly improve on her mental game. That progress hasn’t gone unnoticed by her teammate who will eventually pass to her the proverbial torch as team leader.
“Alexis Dross has the torch. I know she’ll take over what me and (fellow senior) Dawn (Posey) leave behind. She’s already doing great,” Muscianese said. “She has a great attitude. She’ll be a great leader as a senior next year.
“I told her in person, her attitude has changed for the better. She’s so positive now. She’ll hit a bad shot and doesn’t get mad. She brushes it off. Her game has improved drastically.”
Muscianese has two primary goals in her last year with the Lady Sharks: get the team back to states and earn a college scholarship. So far she has garnered looks from Division III schools in Illinois and Wisconsin.
“I’d love to play golf in college. I’ve always wanted to since I was a little girl,” Muscianese said. “I have to improve my game and lower my scores, and play in tournaments outside of high school.”
Ideally, she’d like to find a school where she can keep on golfing while pursuing a career in social work. She simply enjoys helping others, an approach she takes on the golf course and one she hopes she’s remembered for down the road.
But for the moment, both Muscianese and Dross have their eyes on matching last year’s success, and they have plenty of help in that pursuit.
“It’s great having teammates. Our top five, if one of us doesn’t have a good day, we pick up the slack for each other,” Muscianese said. “If one person does poorly, another score can replace it.”
“We don’t really have roles. We do our thing,” Dross said. “We all know what to do, we know the expectations. It’s all a group effort. No one has to tell anyone anything. We know where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.