The Hannibal golf team is focused on winning its seventh consecutive conference championship and pushing deep into postseason.
The Hannibal golf team doesn't have to utter a word about what its first priority will be for the upcoming season.
The mission is clearly understood.
The Pirates are focused on continuing their dominance in the North Central Missouri Conference. They hope to win the conference championship for the seventh straight year.
“We want to keep that conference streak going,” senior Gabe Falconer said. “That's something we've taken pride in the past several years, as long as I have been here.”
Falconer returns as the lone senior on the squad and the only player with experience of playing at the state tournament.
Preston Bennett and Josh Paubel are both sophomores expected to challenge Falconer for the No. 1 position.
With those three leading the way, coach Jason Noland intends for his squad to contend deep into the season, which begins with a triangular at Mexico on Wednesday, March 21.
Also in the mix are juniors Claire Thomas and Danny Colborn as well as sophomores Gabe Keesey and Hayden Rice and freshmen Hunter Parker, Cameron Neisen and Cameron Cooke.
“We definitely have a conference championship as a major goal,” Noland said. “We want to win our tournament that we have here and place well at the big tournaments in Jeff City. The expectations are where we've been and they want to uphold those same expectations.”
Hannibal placed second at the Class 3 District 4 Tournament last season before taking third in sectionals to fall just short of state as a team.
Falconer earned all-NCMC and all-district honors and was one of three Pirates to advance to state as an individual.
“I wasn't very happy after state last year,” said Falconer, who finished 55th in Class 3. “I'm never as good as I want to be. I'm never happy with myself. I don't really know if anybody here is. There's always something you can do better.”
Bennett earned conference honors a year ago and posted his second-lowest score of the season at sectionals, falling just short of a trip to state.
The sophomore wants to punch his ticket this time around.
“I put a lot of work in during the offseason and played golf pretty much every day over the summer,” Bennett said. “I feel like I'm better than last season and have more skill. I have confidence from last year.”
Paubel competed in the Pirates varsity lineup in the early stages last year before aggravating a wrist injury that sidelined him the remainder of his freshman season.
Now healthy, he feels poised for a breakout campaign.
“I'm pretty confident in my play now,” he said. “I'm ready for a good season and hopefully we get off to a good start.”
Noland noted the rank order of his squad has yet to be determined.
Colborn and the trio of freshmen are new to the program and will be given the chance to show how they stack up against the returning talent.
“It's always a good friendly competition just trying to one-up each other and keep getting better,” Bennett said.
The Pirates lineup will remain flexible throughout the season and will be determined match-by-match.
“We haven't qualified yet, so nothing is set, but nothing is ever set until district time really because every match is a qualifier for us and we just go on numbers,” Noland said.
The Hannibal coach is happy to have 10 athletes in his program, enough to field a junior varsity team.
“The great thing about having 10 kids is we'll go to every match with varsity and JV, but they're playing the same course so you can improve where you want to be and move up or down,” he said.
The internal competition between teammates during practices at Norwoods Golf Club should only benefit the Pirates when the calendar turns to May.
Bennett said the team gets the best out of each other.
“Even if you shoot a good score, you shouldn't be pleased because you can always look back and fix something,” he said. “A putt here, a chip there. Never being pleased after a round always helps you get better.”