Six East Bay Athletic League girls teams, including two-time defending champion Amador Valley, will compete in a power-packed North Coast Section Division I Tournament of Champions on Monday at Windsor Golf Course.
"It's more competitive than it's ever been," Dons coach Clark Fuller said of the TOC.
The top three teams, plus the top four individuals not on a qualifying team will advance to the Northern California championships Nov. 5 at Brookside Country Club in Stockton.
Dons junior Kimberly Liu is among the favorites. Liu was the EBAL's Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season as she won the league tournament Oct. 15 with a 4-under-par 67 at Deer Ridge Golf Club in Brentwood.
Other local contenders in the deep field are Acalanes' Elizabeth Schultz; Clayton Valley Charter's McKenna DeLong; Foothill's Alex Sborov, the low scorer at Monday's NCS qualifier; and Granada's two aces, Yuri Ahn and Janelle Reali.
Dublin, which won the Freedom tournament title; Alameda, the 2007 and 2009 NCS team champion; and last year's NCS runner-up Mission San Jose will vie for NorCal spots, along with the EBAL contingent.
Alameda has a talented new cast, led by Melissa Yao and Kenness Cheung. Alameda graduate Carly Childs, now at Cal, won the 2011 NCS title with a section-record 64 at Las Positas Golf Course in Livermore, and ex-Hornets stars Grace Na (2009) and Sam Esguerra (2008) also were NCS champions.
Moreau Catholic remains a contender for the NCS Division IV title despite losing several key pieces from the 2011 squad that won 23 matches.
Besides losing Jade Santos, Jessica Marin and Asha Smith to graduation, the Mariners moved into the Mission Valley Athletic League, which consists of Division I and II teams. Still, Moreau Catholic has an 18-7 record and is in second place in the MVAL.
"The key is that we have a good work ethic," Moreau Catholic captain Remy Puou said. "We've worked hard and have been focused in practice, and the girls that tried out have dedicated themselves to the sport and want to get better."
Because of this hard work and dedication, the Mariners probably should be considered among the top four teams in their division.
"I think we'll do well as long as our chemistry is there," Puou said. "We've already begun to get very focused with all the big games we've had lately and with playoffs coming up."
-- Matt Smith, correspondent
There were many fast performances by East Bay high school runners at the massive Mt. SAC Invitational last weekend.
Leading the charge in the girls races was Amador Valley's Jena Pianin. The senior placed second in the Division I-II Individual Sweepstakes race with a time of 17 minutes, 16 seconds for the three-mile course at Mt. San Antonio College-Walnut.
Other top-20 local finishers in that race included San Ramon Valley's Christine Bayliss (12th, 17:49) and Monte Vista's Brooke Starn (20th, 18:10).
De La Salle's Blair Hurlock had the fastest East Bay high school boys time (15:08). He was 10th in the Division I-II Team Sweepstakes race and was the top Bay Area finisher in that race. Teammates Matthew Schumann (22nd, 15:22) and Luke Williams (30th, 15:29) also had sub-15:40 times.
Northgate's Danny Stalters continued his fine season with a time of 15:12 in a Division II victory.
Other East Bay runners with sub-15:40 times included Washington's Nolan Petersen, who was fourth in a Division II race in 15:28. Tyler Hanson (Miramonte) won a Division III race in 15:39.
-- Phil Jensen