At End Of Sem’s Bumpy Road Is District Final Match
Wyoming Seminary golf recently won its third set of championships — division and conference — in the past four years.
But this year’s ride to the top was a bit bumpier than it had been in 2015 and 2016.
“I think we struggled early — not necessarily struggled, but not shooting what we could,” said junior Jeremy Callahan.
It wasn’t like Sem’s undefeated 2015 season, a nonstop joyride set in motion the year prior when Sem snapped Holy Redeemer’s 54-match win streak.
Nor was it like 2016, when Sem finished fourth at the Tryba Preseason Tournament and then rolled to a five-match win streak to open league play.
No, this year started a lot like last year; a fine season, really, but one that saw other small school teams outperform the Blue Knights.
Sem lagged behind Redeemer and Lake-Lehman at this year’s Tryba. The regular season featured losses to Redeemer and MMI Prep.
“As the season continued, we got better as a team and as individuals,” Callahan said. “You’re always looking at Holy Redeemer and their talent and their kids ... always a chase to beat them.”
And then, it happened Sept. 28 at Fox Hill, where Callahan and the Blue Knights beat Redeemer, 323-326, for the Wyoming Valley Conference Class 2A team championship.
“We knew we were going to have to play our best golf to beat them,” said Sem head coach Matt Occhiato.
Callahan was the medalist with a 75. Harrison May shot an 81, Bobby Wilson 82, and Andrew Maddock 85.
“It felt amazing,” Callahan said. “Three strokes was the difference. When you realize in the grand scheme of things, with 18 holes and four scores, three strokes can happen anywhere. Just knowing everything we did all year paid off, it felt great.”
Callahan and the Blue Knights are still in the thick of the postseason, which continues with today’s District 2 golf team championships at Fox Hill where WVC and Lackawanna League champs go head-to-head.
Occhiato said he intends on using Callahan, Wilson, May, Maddock and Greg Godlewski as his group of five against undefeated Scranton Prep in Class 2A. The Class 3A title will go to the winner of Dallas vs. Abington Heights.
The Sem-Prep matchup will feature three golfers — Callahan and Wilson of Sem, M.J. Stivala of Prep — who finished in the top six at individual districts, thus earning a spot at regionals. This is the second year in a row Callahan qualified for regionals.
“Pretty special that he did it two years in a row,” Occhiato said. “And now he’s bringing a teammate with him, which makes it even more special.”
While Sem did lose twice in the regular season, it wasn’t by much either time; the Blue Knights lost to MMI Prep, 166-172, and Redeemer, 164-167.
The Blue Knights worked on their game and improved in that sense, although Occhiato also said his team has peaked at the end of the season because he’d been working all year on finding the right pairings.
It helps, too, that the team enjoys playing — and playing together.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Occhiato said. “I’ve got a team of six guys that I really don’t have to beg to come to practice or beg to hit balls, because they love playing golf, they enjoy what they’re doing. They goof around a lot, too, which is fun as a coach.”
Callahan recalled during the offseason when he and his teammates would text each other, wondering who’s playing and who’s available to play on any given day.
It wouldn’t always be easy for Callahan to make it work, though, because he’s also an all-conference basketball player at Sem.
“It’s definitely a challenge, especially with the academic workload at Sem,” Callahan said. “But it’s just using your time wisely.”
Callahan is a lifelong basketball player, and freshman year was actually the first time he played competitive golf.
“I’m feeling my game is at an all-time high right now. I’m in my third year of competitive golf and I’m starting to get comfortable with the shots I want to hit and the clubs in my bag. It’s all coming together at the right time,” he said. “It didn’t all happen in one night and it didn’t all happen in one year. So, it’s a lot of hard work.”
Acknowledging that golf is a “hugely mental game,” Callahan said he’s applied that to basketball, too, as he’s been one of the WVC’s top free throw shooters as a freshman and sophomore.
There’s also a competitive streak in Callahan’s basketball game that he’s taken to the golf course, whether competing against the field or against himself.
Today’s competition is Scranton Prep, however, and the Blue Knights will certainly need to play their best to topple the two-time-defending District 2 Class 2A champs.
The District 2 champions will square off against the District 4 champions Thursday at Elmhurst Country Club; the winners of that will play in the PIAA state championships Oct. 22-24.
Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570-821-2060; @CVBufano on Twitter