North Branford Golf Becomes a Contender in 2022
Four years ago, the North Branford boys’ golf team finished its season no wins and placed last in the Shoreline Conference. Led by a senior class that built the foundation, coupled with the introduction of several talented underclassmen, the Thunderbirds have turned their program around and put together a couple of solid seasons, earning their second-straight top-5 finish in the Shoreline Conference and to go with a top-10 performance at states this spring.
North Branford finished with an overall record of 12-1-2 for the 2022 season. The T-Birds’ only loss came against Portland, which went on to win the Division III state title. On May 17, North Branford earned a 181-196 road victory over Old Lyme to secure the No. 2 ranking at this year’s Shoreline Conference Championship. Looking back at the regular season, Head Coach Andrew DaCorte was also impressed with North Branford’s two wins against non-conference foe Maloney—a 177-186 road victory on May 18 and a 164-188 home win on May 23.
North Branford recorded a team score of 353 at the Shoreline Conference Championship, finishing in fifth place at the meet and fourth overall in the league. The T-Birds went on to finish in a tie for ninth place in the Division III State Championship with a total of 357. Sophomore Jack O’Brien posted North Branford’s best score at both postseason meets, placing ninth with a score of 84 at Shorelines and then recording an 86 to finish in a tie for 27th place at states.
Coach DaCorte said that North Branford’s players were a bit disappointed with the team’s postseason finishes. While they accomplished their goal of finishing top five in Shorelines and top 10 at states, the Thunderbirds’ golfers felt that they didn’t perform their best in those two meets. Still, North Branford wound up having a very successful season in 2022. Compared to where the program was four years ago, the Thunderbirds have become a contender within the Shoreline Conference.
O’Brien served as North Branford’s No. 1 golfer this year and wound up earning All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors. Senior Dakota Cooper competed out of the No. 2 spot in the Thunderbirds’ lineup. Cooper was followed by freshman Robert Cappella in the No. 3 hole.
Coach DaCorte was named the Shoreline Conference Coach of the Year this season. When the T-Birds succeeded, DaCorte said that they were typically led by their top-three golfers.
“When the team played well, it came from our top three,” Coach DaCorte said. “If they came in in the low 40s, it was a decent round. We knew something pretty good could happen. We went as those top three went. If two of the three shot well, we were still in pretty good shape.”
Senior captain Blake Pearson served as the No. 4 golfer in North Branford’s lineup this year. Seniors Jalen Rossicone and Ryan Monde and junior Drew Girardi each split time at the No. 5 spot. Coach DaCorte said that the T-Birds’ No. 4 and 5 golfers typically shot between 45 and 55 and that, when they posted a low round, coupled with the efforts of the top three, North Branford was in an excellent position for success.
Cooper and Pearson served as the T-Birds’ senior captains this season, joining Rossicone and Monde as members of the senior class. Coach DaCorte said all four seniors proved crucial in the resurgence of the North Branford golf squad.
When DaCorte took over the program, the Thunderbirds’ roster was filled with upperclassmen. DaCorte was worried about what the future would hold until this year’s senior class stepped in. As freshmen, all four were in the starting lineup. As a result, this year’s team had more depth as any of them could compete in a pinch. The team’s four seniors have been seen both the highs and lows of high school golf. As they graduate, Coach DaCorte said all four of them have made their impact on the Thunderbirds and have taken the program to a better place.
“This senior class is a special class for me. When I took over the team, I had all juniors and seniors. When they graduated, I didn’t know if I would have a team,” said DaCorte. “They showed up and were starters from day one. They started the program from the ground up. They were dedicated. They came every day. They played on their off time. Those four set the tone. I cannot say enough good things about those four gentlemen. They’re great kids.”
Next year, North Branford will be returning Girardi, O’Brien, Cappella, and freshman Jack Monde, who is Ryan’s Monde’s younger brother. As the Thunderbirds look ahead to the 2023 season, Coach DaCorte wants his golfers to come back to the links hungry and be ready to follow up the team’s recent success with another solid campaign.
“I just want them to build on it. I know we didn’t get the postseason success, but I think that’s going to feed them next year,” DaCorte said. “I know they’re going to want to finish better than this year.”
Now that North Branford has demonstrated that it can be a top-five squad in the Shoreline Conference, Coach DaCorte wants the program to strive for more. In addition to winning titles, DaCorte wants to keep building the Thunderbirds into a team that every opponent respects. With the groundwork established by this year’s seniors, DaCorte believes that the T-Birds have all the tools they need to continue growing their program into a powerhouse.
“I want North Branford golf to be one of those respected programs. When you think of it, you think of a program that’s going to have good golfers that play the right way. You want to play us, because we’re one of the upper teams to play against,” said DaCorte. “To win a Shoreline or State title in the future would be fantastic. I know what it takes. I want to make sure we do it the right way and we do it the best way possible to build the program.”