Milton head coach Kirk Wieland couldn't have asked for a better start to Tuesday's WIAA Division 1 sectional.
The Red Hawks had multiple season-bests on the front nine, including a 43 from No. 5 golfer Callie Hakala as the highest score.
"We got off to such a good start that I think on the back nine that we just lost focus a little bit," Wieland said.
Milton survived some difficulty on the back nine of the specially designed Pines Course at Edgewood Golf Course in Big Bend to outlast Kettle Moraine by one stroke for the sectional championship with a team score of 335 to earn a trip to the state competition at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison on Monday and Tuesday.
The Lasers, who also earned a trip to state, followed with a 336, paced by medalist Abby Cavaiani's round of 70, with Union Grove (356) and Waterford (373) rounding out the top four.
Lake Geneva Badger's Holly Murphy (79), Waterford's Aubrie Torhorst (83) and Janesville Parker's Sophia Dooman (83) were the individual qualifiers to advance state as well.
"We knew with us and Kettle Moraine, we were probably a little ahead of the rest of the field, so today was not about us vs. Kettle Moraine," Wieland said. "I tell that to the girls all the time. I kind of scolded them coming down because that's all they talked about. I'm like, 'We're not playing Kettle Moraine. We're playing the course.'"
Mia Seeman (77) and Taylor Hakala (79) each shot 39s on the front nine and both finished below 80 to keep the Red Hawks in the hunt.
Wieland still saw too many mistakes from his top two golfers that need to be cleaned up if Milton wants to compete among the top teams next week.
"Neither of them were really on their game. They both wasted too many strokes," Wieland said. "The difference between their scores — 77, 79 — and Abby, she played excellent, tee to green. We wasted some opportunities where we needed to separate a little bit."
Claudia Seeman posted an 89, while Holly Gunnick recorded a 90 and Callie Hakala registered a 94 for the Red Hawks.
Wieland also understands that an 18-hole round under pressure will never go as planned, and the team, which posted scores of 47, 48 and 51 on the back nine, needs to get through the difficult sections of a course without it carrying over to future holes.
University Ridge, where the UW-Madison golf teams play, won't be any easier.
"The start of the back nine and midway through, the girls were kind of struggling, which happens in an 18-hole round, and then they were worried about everything but themselves," Wieland said. "I guess we were pretty fortunate to sneak out of here with a one-stroke victory."
The Red Hawks will play both Monday and Tuesday. Division 1 competition begins at 8 a.m. each day, and official tee times for Milton have yet to be released. The WIAA will post the times at wiaawi.org this week.