NORTH SIOUX CITY – A youthful Dakota Valley High School boys golf team is peaking at the right time.

So much so that the Panthers have qualified for the South Dakota Class A state tournament for the second consecutive year.

Dakota Valley won the Region 2A tournament last week at Dakota Dunes Country Club, where it finished second to Aberdeen Roncalli in last year’s state tournament. Both teams are part of this year’s 16-team field at Rocky Run Golf Course in Dell Rapids.

“Our team is a story of progression,” Dakota Valley Coach Rodd Slater said. “The team is young and is in the process of building their game and are peaking at the right time.”

Junior Keaton Hensley and sophomore Paul Bruns each played on the state runner-up team last season and are now the team leaders. They finished first and second in the regional meet with scores of 73 (36-37) and 75 (41-34), respectively and Dakota Valley finished with a 321 total, well ahead of Tea Area and West Central, which also advanced to the state meet.

The Panthers hope for similar results at Rocky Run Monday and Tuesday. Dakota Valley played there earlier this season, shooting 352 and finishing fourth among a strong field.

Isaac Bruns, an eighth-grader, and sophomores Evan Monell and Jordan Smith are the other three Dakota Valley golfers.

“Each player is improving and thus the team score is more competitive,” Slater said. “For example, in August the team shot 331 and finished third in the Dakota Valley Invite at Two Rivers. This week we shot 321 and finished first in the region meet. They are all very competitive, have good short games and push each other to lower scores.

“This is a fun group who have their eyes on something.”

Aberdeen Roncalli will defend its team title as will Lucas Schaefbauer, who won the Class A medal at Dakota Dunes last year by five strokes.

The rest of the field includes Canton, Chamberlain, Custer, Hot Springs, Lead-Deadwood, Lennox, Madison, Parkston, Redfield, Sioux Valley, Sisseton and St. Thomas More.

Ryne Whisler, Hunter Lavin and Willis Robertson of Vermillion each qualified individually, as did Ethan Kelly of Elk Point-Jefferson. Payton Borah and Hayden Wilson of Beresford will also compete as individuals.

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