In each of the past three years, the Lakeville South boys’ golf team has narrowly missed out on a conference title. Similarly in those years, the Cougars have come up short in pursuit of a Class 3A Section 1 championship.

The 2015 season has just felt different, though, coach Bill Schommer said. It’s likely appeared different to many outsiders of the program, too.

Returning a talented and experienced group this spring, the Cougars took little time shaking off the effects of a winter layoff. They won multiple South Suburban Conference meets, clinching the program’s first league title. They bested a top-tier field — one that included both No. 1 Edina and No. 2 Wayzata — at the Albert Lea Invitational on May 15-16. And they’ve had five separate players win individual medalist honors in at least one event this season.

Add it all up, and Lakeville South is the state’s third-ranked team, according the Minnesota Golf Association. It is not only a favorite to advance out of this weekend’s section meet at The Jewel Golf Club in Lake City, but also one of the top contenders for a Class 3A state title.

“It’s something the kids have talked about all season,” Schommer said of a state championship. “I like that. I like that that’s their goal. At the same time, though, I know if that doesn’t happen, they’ll be disappointed. But this has already been a great season, one they should be very proud of.”

Depth has been a key for the Cougars. Five players have locked down the top five spots in the lineup. An additional five or six have filled in at that final sixth spot.

Max Redetzke is in his fifth season on the varsity team, and the lone senior regularly in the lineup. Ranked 14th individually by the MGA, he’ll play golf at Lehigh University next fall.

“He’s just been so consistent for us,” Schommer said. “He won one conference meet, and has just been steady all year and someone we can count on.”

Junior Noah Rasinski, the state’s 20th-ranked player, probably has had the best season of any Cougar, Schommer said. He tied for medalist honors in Albert Lea with fellow Lakeville South junior Trey Sheehan, and finished in the top five at the Tri-State Invitational, one of the state’s premier high school events.

Sheehan has locked down the team’s No. 3 spot, Schommer said, and sophomores William Moore and Tanner Sperling also have played key roles.

“These kids have really grown and improved in the last couple years, and we were excited about what they could do this season,” Schommer said. “I can’t say there’s been any disappointment in what anyone has done.”

Day 1 of the section meet was Saturday. The team will wrap up play Monday, with the winner advancing to state.

“I always say you have to play sections as just another round, but, honestly, everyone knows that you’re gearing your whole season toward this,” Schommer said. “They’re a loose group, though, and if they stay loose and concentrate on the next shot that’s in front of them — and not worry about anything else — they should be just fine.”

After all, the Cougars have been close before, and Schommer feels it’s their time to break through.

“It would be really great to get an opportunity for them to play in the state tournament, because I do think they are good enough to compete for that state title,” he said. “They have the talent and ability and makeup to do that. I would just love for them to get the opportunity.”