The groundwork for the 2019 Stow-Munroe Falls girls golf season was laid at the end of the 2018 season. 

Last fall, Stow placed fifth at the sectional meet, missing the cut to advance to districts by three strokes.

"We started talking about this year on the ride home from sectionals last year," said Stow coach Scott Rorabaugh. "It’s been a big motivation for us."

That motivation had led Bulldogs to a place they have never gone before, according to Rorabaugh: The Division I district tournament.

Stow advanced to districts by finishing second in the Division I sectional tournament at Fox Den Golf Club in Stow Wednesday. Stow finished second in the team race with a score of 329, just one stroke behind champions Solon. The top four teams at Fox Den advanced to districts.

"Being familiar with the golf course certainly helped," Rorabaugh said, noting Fox Den is Stow’s home course. "We peaked at the right time and we want to continue to do so next week. 

"I knew coming in [Solon was] probably the favorite, given what I saw of them in terms of scores," he added. "Obviously, they are a very good team. We hung in there with them."

Stow score of 329 shattered its previous-season best of 347 for an 18-hole round. Rorabaugh noted the Bulldogs had 10 birdies on the day, but believed his team could have shot even lower, noting Stow was a combined plus-25 on the final three holes.

"We just tried to keep the ball in play and not have any big numbers," Rorabaugh said. "Even though we played well, we didn’t finish that strong." 

Junior No. 1 golfer Ellie McCoy led the Bulldogs again, as her round of 78 was just one stroke behind Solon senior Sandy Deng for medalist honors at Fox Den.  

"She’s definitely been our top player all year. She didn’t do anything different today," Rorabaugh sadi. "She made three birders. Coming in with a 37 on the front nine." 

It turned both Ellies led Stow, as sophomore Ellie Ryan broke 80 for the first time in her career with a round of 79.

"She was a very happy about that," Rorabaugh said. "She was even par through the day through 13 holes, then dropped down to six-over."

In her final high school round at Fox Den, senior Abbey Staats also put up a career-best round, shooting an 85. Staats’ back-nine score of 40 was the best for the Bulldogs.

Fellow senior Olivia Balawender was her normal consistent self, as she shot a round of 7. 

Freshman McKenzie Ickes shot a round of 92 for the Bulldogs.

Stow heads to another familiar course, as the Division I district tournament will take place Tuesday at Ellsworth Meadows Golf Club in Hudson. First tee time is set for 8.

The top four teams and top four individuals not on an advancing team at districts will move on to the Division I state tournament Oct. 18 and 19 at Grey Course at The Ohio State University.

"I think every team that goes to districts has a chance [to get to states]," Rorabaugh said. "Certainly, we know that everybody is going to be a quality team. We’ve had a great season so far. We’ve got one more big test."

Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, mleonard@recordpub.com or @MLeonard_GHO