It’s been quite a season for the Lakewood High School girls golf team.
The Cougars dominated their competition in the Northwest Conference all spring long, winning six of seven league matches and finishing just one stroke away from sweeping all seven of their meets in the 15-team conference.
As a result, Lakewood secured its first league title in girls golf since joining the conference at the start of the 2015-16 school year, finishing 177 strokes in front of second-place Oak Harbor and over 600 strokes better than the league’s next closest team.
It’s also the first outright title for any Lakewood sports team since joining the league.
“That was my favorite part of the season, bringing home something like that back to the Lakewood community,” standout sophomore Kiana Schroeder said. “Golf isn’t one of those sports that you hear about young girls playing all the time. I think that having the type of chance we’ve been given is going to spread the word a lot. I’m hoping for more good seasons to come and more chances like this to become Northwest (Conference) champions.”
The Cougars even added a pair of team titles while competing against teams from the eastside of the state at the Suncadia Tournament and Gamble Sands Invitational.
Kiana and her older sister, Malia Schroeder, a senior, have been at the forefront of the Cougars’ success.
Kiana capped an impressive sophomore season by claiming Northwest Conference MVP honors, an award given to the golfer with the lowest average score in league matches throughout the season.
She posted an average 18-hole score of 80 with four individual first-place finishes.
Malia, who won the league MVP honors as a freshman in 2019, wasn’t far behind, finishing in third with an average 18-hole score of 84 and one top finish of her own in league play.
“I would say the two of them can outdrive anybody in the league,” longtime Lakewood coach Chris Walster said. “… They’ll be out there outhitting men up and down the range. They can both just crush the ball.
“In fact, a lot of times when they feel like they aren’t hitting their driver very well, they’ll still outdrive their opponents by 20 yards teeing off with a 3-wood,” he added. “Their power game when they’re on, there’s nobody that compares to them.”
Both qualified for the Class 2A state tournament with top-12 finishes during last week’s district tournament at Snohomish Golf Course, with Malia taking second and Kiana fourth.
On Tuesday, the sisters are scheduled to tee off just 20 minutes apart on Day 1 of the state tournament at Tumwater Valley Golf Club. And they’re aiming to help Lakewood bring some hardware back home and accomplish another program milestone.
If both sisters can qualify for Day 2, it will be the first time the Cougars have ever had multiple golfers competing in the state tournament’s final round.
“I think top 10 would be amazing,” Kiana Schroeder said when asked about the sisters’ goals for the state tournament. “I think that would be a goal that we could potentially reach if we work towards it, but I think if we just go out there and we have a good time, that’s the ultimate goal.”
The success of the Schroeders has come as no surprise.
Unlike many girls golfers at the high school level, both already had extensive resumes before joining their high school team.
Kiana and Malia started competing at Washington Junior Golf Association at a young age, and they’ve even showcased their talents on the national stage.
Malia competed at the national Drive, Chip and Putt Championships at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, twice.
Kiana’s accomplishments include playing at the 2018 PGA Jr. League Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“We always knew once we could get Kiana and Malia Schroeder together that we were going to be good,” Walster said.
And with all the success the sisters have had in their golf careers, a friendly sibling rivalry has naturally formed.
Walster recalled Kiana, a seventh grader at the time, dishing out some light-hearted ribbing after Malia took 13th at state as freshman in 2019.
And Kiana dethroning her older sister as the individual league champion this season added a little extra fuel to the competition.
“We joke around a lot with each other about who’s No. 1 and who’s No. 2,” Malia said. “(Kiana’s) been playing really, really good golf. Obviously, my little sister doing better than I am makes me want to do a little better. I think that our competitiveness has helped us get better throughout the year for sure.”
But regardless of who has come out on top at meets, the sisters have enjoyed their final season golfing together.
“We try to have fun with it,” Kiana said. “Being competitive siblings is fun. We both try and do our best, and we’re both happy for each other when we both have a good outcome. If we have a bad day, we’re still happy for the other person. It’s really just a great experience. We love each other.”
While the Schroeder sisters are the only two golfers guaranteed to compete at state for Lakewood, the team’s overall success has been a joint effort.
Walster, who has been the Cougars’ girls golf coach since the program started in 1999, said this is the deepest team Lakewood has had.
Senior Mandy Harrison, a 2019 state qualifier and Lakewood’s No. 3 golfer, delivered another strong season and garnered second-team all-league honors after finishing in a tie for 12th in the league standings.
First-year golfers Audrey Jordan, a junior, and Haley Callan, a freshman, finished in 20th and 21st, respectively, to round out a strong top five. Callan even delivered a strong enough showing at districts to earn a spot as a state alternate.
Having experienced players like the Schroeders and Harrison, a close friend of the sisters who also golfed before high school, has been a big help for the newcomers.
“I told them on Day 1 that Malia and Kiana and Mandy can show you so much, especially the Schroeder sisters,” Walster said. “They’re the ones you want to watch. We always talk about how they need to watch Sports Center or The Golf Channel and pick things up, but it makes a big difference when they’re (learning from) people that they have class and lunch with and know well.
“They’ve been great. They’re great about taking time away from their own game and giving instructions to the other girls.”
And while Kiana still has another two years of high school golf in front her, the state tournament will be Malia’s final meet.
She couldn’t think of a better person compete with in her last hurrah.
“The fact that I get to end my career with my sister is really special to me,” she said. “It means everything.”