Hawks enjoy their return trip to state tournament

Viera High senior Ana Maria Tea hits out of the bunker on the fifth hole at the Class 3A state tournament, which was held at the Mission Inn & Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills. The Hawks finished 11th as a team in their first trip back to the state tournament since 2018

HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS – They didn’t play as well as they wanted to over the two-day Class 3A state golf tournament.

But the mere fact that the Viera High girls team was back at the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, well, that in itself was a special moment.

“I love it,” senior Katie Latham said after Wednesday’s final round. “I’ve been on the team since freshman year, but I’ve never played. I would take pictures and I was just a (team) member who would tag along and never really play.

“It’s great to see that I’ve improved so much that I’m actually able to play at states.”

Viera, making its first state tournament appearance since 2018, shot 344 and 348 over the 36-hole event for a team score of 692 that put the Hawks in 11th place.

Junior Brittany Odic was the top finisher for Viera, shooting 80-87 for a two-day total of 167. She was followed by sophomore Vivian Luu (85-83-168) and senior Ana Maria Tea (84-85-169).

Tea, who won the Cape Coast Conference championship earlier this season, felt like she could have played better during the tournament. She wasn't the only one.

“It’s not an easy course,” she said. “There’s no forgiveness. You have to hit it straight or you’re in the trees, or you’re in the water or you’re in a bunker. It’s not good.”

Nobody had a more up-and-down day than Viera senior Phliand “Heart” Gerosano.

She was stung by a bee on the 18th hole (Viera started the day on the 10th hole) and closed out her high school career with a birdie on the ninth hole to finish with a total of 193.

“It was OK on the back (nine), but I played better on the front, even though I got stung by a bee,” Gerosano said. “I still kept going, even though it hurts.”

Latham, who lowered her first-round score by 11 shots on Wednesday, finished with a 197 and also had a memorable final hole, where she got par.

“My drive was perfect, second shot was perfect and then my putts were perfect,” she said.

Viera’s three seniors were all freshmen on the 2018 team that made the state tournament. On Wednesday, they got to end their careers the same way.

Latham has no doubt the Hawks are ready to get back to the days when making the trip to Howey-in-the-Hills was a regular occurrence.

“The younger girls, Brittany and Vivian, they’re going to go to states – whether its individual or with a team,” Latham said. “They’re going to bring us back.”

Viera coach Carl Guettler was encouraged, not just by what happened this week, but with how his team performed all season.

“It was a super-challenging course,” Guettler said. “I thought the course was in good condition and it was fair, but it was very difficult for everybody. Certainly, one of the most difficult courses that we’ve played all year.

“I was just proud of the girls for getting here to states. That was our goal, not necessarily win, but to get here. They went undefeated, 14-0, all year. Then, we won the Cape Coast Conference. They were just there all year, very solid.

“We didn’t get what we wanted this time here, but just to be here is an honor and a privilege.”