Erka stars at sectionals for Hampton golf

Thursday, October 10, 2019 | 4:20 PM

Arianna Erka has gone from a freshman trying to find a place on the Hampton boys golf team to a section champion.

After two years of qualifying, Erka, a junior, won the Section 4 championship at Hiland Golf Club by seven strokes, carding a 73. She became the first Talbot girl to win a section title since Marissa Balish in 2014.

“I definitely improved from last year,” said Erka, who also is a two-year starter in softball. “I think winning sections gave me a lot of confidence. Like I can hang with these girls, and I have the ability to be just as good as them.

“I was able to play in sectionals all three years. I think that helped out getting the experience with the girls because, throughout the year, I’ve just been playing with the guys. So getting to play with the girls is always nice.”

Erka didn’t fare as well going to WPIALs, shooting a 98 at Diamond Run Golf Club. The qualifying pace was 82.

“During the championship … Diamond Run is definitely a harder course,” she said. “I definitely didn’t do my best there, so next year, hopefully, I can pull through and move on to states.”

Still, Erka and coach Bruce Steckel are proud of the steps she has taken this season.

“She had a great round at sectionals. Then after that, it ballooned a little bit,” Steckel said. “She’s a little puzzled by that. It’s a learning process.

“It is a lot harder golf course. She just had a great day at sectionals. That happens. Then she had a bad day. That happens, too. That’s what I tried to explain to her.”

In addition to her individual accomplishments, Erka is a major contributor for Hampton’s boys golf team. The school does not field a girls team, so Erka helped the boys to their seventh straight playoff appearance.

Though the Talbots lost in the semifinals, it has not lost to any section opponent other than Shady Side Academy in more than two years.

“The season started off well, and we had a good run,” she said. “We definitely improved. I think we could have done better (in playoffs), which is unfortunate. I don’t think anyone played to the best of their ability. But what can you do?”

Along with softball season, Erka is looking forward to an offseason playing golf with family members. The golf team will have high hopes with Erka and Matthew Ruzomberka returning as WPIAL qualifiers for their senior years.

“I have definitely grown relationships with all of the guys, which is great,” she said “My freshman year, I wasn’t the most comfortable and confident with everything. But it’s gotten better. I’m excited to see how next year goes, all the new people coming up, how I can be a leader to them and make them more comfortable.”

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