Tigers win D4 title, earn 3 All-Star nods
East Juniata continues run of success
COCOLAMUS — The East Juniata golf team showcased some of the highest quality of golf in the Tri-Valley League, winning the league title as well as the District 4 Class 3A championship. Leading the charge was Will Orwig, winner of the TVL Most Valuable Player, Tanner Barth, winner of the individual District 4 championships, as well as Max Lauver, a junior who was named an All-Star for the third time in his career.
To top it off, coach Michael Zendt was named the TVL Coach of the Year, but he gave all of the credit to his team that reached their third regional tournament in as many years.
“I wouldn’t be the Coach of the Year without the great players that I have on this team,” Zendt said. “These three (Orwig, Barth and Lauver), along with Caleb Kirk and Isaac Austin, have been a lot of fun to work with and help improve. They have certainly made my job easy with their attitudes and work ethic.”
Orwig, a four-time TVL All-Star, a three-time TVL MVP, and a two-time District 4 3A individual champion, did not play up to his own standards, despite being one of the lowest scorers in the league. But ultimately, the team comes first.
“As a team, we did alright,” Orwig said. “But as an individual, I struggled a little bit–had some up and downs.”
While not making any excuses, Orwig admitted that the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic ending the season at a moment’s notice was in the back of his, and his teammate’s minds.
“I was worried about it, but it is what it is,” Orwig said about his senior season possibly getting canceled due to COVID-19. “It was very unusual. I think it was just an off few weeks.”
While Orwig was battling his ups and downs, his teammate, Barth, was having his best season yet. Barth beat Orwig in districts to keep the individual title at East Juniata. Barth’s championship performance was not as smooth sailing as he would’ve preferred but his ability to bounce back is what separated him from the pack.
“You gotta go into every competition expecting to win,” Barth said. “I started off six-over through nine holes and it would’ve been easy to give up at that point, but I battled back and finished two-under on the back nine and ended up winning.”
Like Orwig, Barth has found success dating back to his freshman year, when he was named to his first TVL All-Star team. Barth went into his first season knowing what he was capable of and decided to make the All-Star nod one of his personal goals.
“I try to set my goals high and I thought that was accomplishable,” Barth said about being an All-Star his freshman year. “To win as a freshman and then again… as a sophomore and a junior, I think it’s really cool. I don’t know if there are many people that can say they’ve been an All-Star for three straight years. I’m looking forward to accomplishing that again next year.”
Barth credits the team’s success to their preparation over the summer months, even with COVID-19 looming.
“Most of us had been playing all summer, so we were ready when the season came and we were thankful we could get one in,” Barth said. “We had to stay optimistic that we were going to have a season and thankfully we made it as far as we did.”
Coach Zendt sang the praises of Barth and the career he’s had so far with East Juniata. He expects big things from the reigning District 4 champion.
“(Barth) has been a very solid player and works extremely hard at his game. He is the player that stays after practice and puts in the extra work to make himself better,” Zendt said. “He works on all aspects of his game and is only going to get better. I am excited to see how he performs next year.”
Much like his two teammates, Lauver can also say he’s been a TVL All-Star for three straight seasons. As a junior, Lauver has earned the All-Star nod in each of his first three seasons, but knows he has room for improvement. Still, the team’s success is what made Lauver pleased with how the season turned out.
“I thought I did OK. I was good at the beginning of the season,” Lauver admitted. “”We really had a good season and it’s nice to have a good team. We get along well and I’m really happy with how the season went.”
Lauver also mentioned that he feared the season could have been cancelled due to the pandemic and that cases in the area went up toward the end of the season.
“It wasn’t as bad in the fall, but it got worse as the season went on,” Lauver said about the pandemic. “I really wanted to play, of course, and have a season. When there isn’t golf, there really is much else to do.”
Lauver isn’t a slouch when it comes to contributing to the team; he shot a 79, his season low, at Newport. But Lauver knows that having Orwig and Barth each shooting in the 70s on a regular basis allowed him to play his own game without the added pressure of needing to score low to win. In fact, seeing his teammates dominate the league inspired Lauver to play some of his best golf.
“They can shoot in the 70s almost every time,” Lauver said about having Orwig and Barth set the tone for the team. “It’s really motivating to try to do that… I know that they’re gonna go out there, try their best and shoot low, that relieves a little pressure.”
Coach Zendt was impressed with what he saw from Lauver this season and knows that he is capable of helping East Juniata defend their District championship.
“Lauver has been a solid contributor to our team over the last three years… and has been a very big part of our success as a team,” Zendt said. “He is a steady player that doesn’t get too high or too low with regard to his score. He has worked at his game and shown steady improvement over his three years of play. I am excited for him to take the next step next year for our team.”