CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Just a couple years ago, the Charleston Catholic golf team couldn't figure out how to win back-to-back state championships.
Beginning today at Wheeling's Oglebay Resort, the Irish will be trying to figure out how to make it three straight.
Catholic begins defense of its crown on the par 71 course situated in the rolling hills of the Upper Ohio Valley with a three-time All-State player (Aaron Persily) and a two-time All-State player and 2011 individual medalist (Christian Casingal).
Catholic also boasts No. 3 Nick Casingal, No. 4 Cameron Blakley and Jackson Ellis - who played a State Tournament round on the Jones Course.
The Irish won the Class A crown in 2007, 2009 and 2011 and appeared destined to be stuck in a routine of staggering state titles until last year.
Despite being 36 holes away from becoming the first Class A team ever to win three in a row, Gillispie's optimism is guarded.
"We've got our hands full," said Gillispie, who has coached the last 10 regional championship teams at Catholic, which has won 16 straight regionals. "I was crunching some numbers, and this year it's balanced. Seven of the eight teams from last year are back and a lot of these kids have experience here."
Only once since 2008 has a team's top three players combined for a score of 235 or better, but Gillispie said he thinks that is what it will take to win the Class A state title.