By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — An all-senior lineup has its pros and cons.
Last year, the Troy girls golf team rode the strength of its seven seniors — including the top four scorers in the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division — to a division championship under first-year coach Matt Wibbeler.
Now, that leaves the Trojans looking to replace its entire varsity lineup from last season, with an entire cast of brand new characters trying to find their way on the golf course and their place in the new-look GWOC American North Division.
“Last year, we won the GWOC North. We had a really experienced team, and the girls played really well,” Wibbeler said. “From a coaching standpoint, they taught me a lot so far as the routines we go through in the GWOC.
“This year, we’re hoping to improve from week to week. That’s a good goal for us. (Wednesday’s) scrimmage (the Covington Eagles Lady Bucc Pink Out) was the first real varsity experience for everyone. It’s going to be a real learning experience for everyone, but as long as we’re improving every week, I’d call that a successful season.”
That new lineup consists of all underclassmen, as well, with three juniors and three seniors. Carrigan Browning, Madison Stookey and Hannah Simister make up the junior class, while Megan Sawcheck, Sydney Langenkamp and Riley Johnson are the sophomores.
At Echo Hills Wednesday, all six shot 100-plus rounds, with no one player claiming leadership of the team yet. And while that may take a while to come, the Trojans’ focus on fundamentals will benefit every member of the roster.
“Last year was the first year golfing for most of them,” Wibbeler said. “They learned a lot and improved. Now this year, hopefully we can keep improving on our swings and control. We need to improve on the mental aspect of the game, too, so far as knowing where to cut strokes on the course and general management.”
And with the addition of Tippecanoe into the division, now named the GWOC American North, the Trojans will begin the work that it will take to remain on top.
“Based on our scores Wednesday, losing those seniors and the inexperience we have, it’s going to take some time to get back to being competitive at the top of the division,” Wibbeler said. “Do we have the potential to get there? Possibly. But having the Pre-GWOC a week into the season makes it a little tough to improve and set a standard for the year right away.
“I think, if we improve the way I think we will, we’ll be in the middle of the pack in the North, and for us where we end up finishing will be about we play on any given day.”
Entering the season, Tippecanoe has advanced past the sectional tournament 14 straight seasons.
But after graduating three key seniors from last year’s team — who all went to the state tournament as a team twice in their careers — the Red Devils will be leaning on its two experienced players to get to district for a 15th consecutive time as they play their first season in the Greater Western Ohio Conference.
Juniors Taylor Hudson and Lydia Stueve, who played in the state tournament as freshmen, will return to lead the squad, with Addi Richardson, Mandi Kreinbrink, Ashlyn Herzog and Jessica Goodson joining the team.
“Taylor and Lydia are going to have to play well for us to be competitive, and the other girls are going to have to keep improving,” Tippecanoe coach Scott Murray said. “But they’re going to get better all season, and it’s been fun working with them. We’re trying to get back to playing at the level we need to play at to get back to district for the 15th straight year.”
* Miami East
The Miami East Vikings won the Cross County Conference tournament the past two seasons and advanced to the district tournament last season. And while the team graduated three key players and is young this season, the Vikings are not without experience.
Senior Maggie Bergman and junior Emily Rowley were part of last year’s team and will lead the Vikings this year, a team that includes three freshmen.
“The exciting part is that all seven golfers are taking lessons and should get better throughout the season,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “Last year we had a very successful year, going 18-4 and making it to the district tournament. I know the squad will be young, but we’re not inexperienced.
“This year’s team is looking to maintain or improve on last year’s record. We know that’s a lofty goal, as we’ll be playing a very tough non-league schedule. We’re also hoping to repeat as CCC tournament champs and improve on our third-place finish at sectional and seventh-place at district.”
Covington returns the majority of its lineup from a season ago, bringing back five of the six Buccaneer golfers — including their top two scorers in seniors Addison Metz and Kelsey McReynolds. And the Buccs are hoping they can improve throughout the season and finish in the middle of the Cross County Conference.
Also returning from last year’s team is senior Megan Alexander, and the Buccs will round out the varsity lineup with a junior, a sophomore and a freshman.
“We should be competitive in the CCC this year,” Covington coach Adam Sweigart said. “We hope to make improvements each and every match we play, and our goal is to be competitive among our conference opponents and ourselves. Our team has a wide range of experience, from seasoned veterans to first-timers in the sport. All that I ask of the girls is to enjoy their time on the course with their opponents, try their hardest, put in as much effort as possible to make themselves better at the sport of golf, and lastly to have fun while playing.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.