By Ryan Kaczmarski
Golf is a sport of skill and patience, and in northeastern Ohio, there is a small window – spring through fall – where the game can be played in preferred conditions. The high school golf season kicked off a week and a half ago, and teams will start league play later this week.
The MAGNIFICAT girls varsity golf team is coming off a 2011 season in which it went 9-0, and took first place in the North East Ohio Independent School Girls’ Golf League (NEOISGGL) championship tournament.
The Blue Streaks’ nine-hole average in competition was 158.8 strokes; in 18-hole tournament play, the team averaged 325.7 strokes.
“In 2011, we had a young team with two freshmen, three sophomores and one senior, but they qualified for varsity with solid play and finished the season sixth in the state,” Magnificat head coach Katy Kahler said.
The three returning players from last year’s state qualifying team are junior Ali Nageotte (finished third in the state in 2011), sophomore Jillian Hollis (tied 28th in the state in 2011) and junior Cara Kelley (finished 40th in the state in 2011).
“Last year, freshman Jillian Hollis and sophomore Ali Nageotte provided our team with a solid one-two in competition,” Kahler said. “Both players had 18 hole averages in the 70s (Ali, 76, and Jillian, 78.1). Cara Kelley was a steady No. 3 with a scoring average of 84.5.
“We are hoping our additions to the team will provide us with a solid fourth score in competition.”
The Blue Streaks have three seniors who will be contributing to the varsity team this year in Morgan MacLean, Nicole DiRando and Kaitlyn Trutza.
“We expect them to help us with our fourth through sixth scoring positions in matches and tournament play, in addition to returning junior Caroline Bello,” Kahler said. “We will work toward a return to Columbus in October.”
Kahler considers the strengths of the team to be its depth and experience.
“All seven players who will contribute to our varsity team are solid ball strikers and have a great deal of experience in tournament play,” she said. “We will continue to work on short-game skills throughout the season, as well as hitting more drives in the fairways.
“A weakness we could face is fielding a team of five, with two of those players lacking postseason experience.”
The FAIRVIEW boys varsity team finished fourth in the Patriot Athletic Conference in 2011. The Warriors bring back all but one from last year’s squad.
“One of the key players is our No. 1 man, Tim Straka, who we look to have a great season,” Fairview head coach Christopher Kaminski said. “Tim played in many tournaments over the summer and has been continuously trying to improve his game.
“We also have a promising sophomore, John Riley, who has started the season off well,” he continued. “We look forward to returning juniors Tyler Cain, Matt Zack and Mike Wazevich to anchor the team.”
Straka will serve as the team captain this season.
Kaminski sees the senior leadership and the ability to score low as the team’s strengths, while the majority of this year’s matches being played on the road could be an Achilles’ heel for the Warriors.
The ROCKY RIVER boys squad had a great 2011 season, going 10-2 in dual match play, while winning the West Shore Conference regular season, preview and championship tournaments.
The Pirates lost last year’s WSC MVP, Tim Smith, to graduation. The four returning letter winners are seniors Tom Garibaldi (first-team All-WSC in 2011) and Sam Sheehan (second-team All-WSC in 2011); and juniors Jackson Farling (first-team All-WSC in 2011) and Tom Robenalt (WSC honorable mention in 2011).
“Tom Garibaldi and Sam Sheehan bring two years of varsity experience and have won two consecutive WSC championships,” Pirates boys head coach Mike Patterson said. “Jackson Farling and Tom Robenalt are the most consistent players, with Farling playing varsity for his third year.
“The team’s strengths will be experience and depth, with the addition of freshman Brian Tucci and junior Garrett Stefani.”
The Pirates’ girls squad is coming off a 2011 season in which it had an overall record of 10-8 (4-8 in WSC play), but did finish in second place in the WSC tournament.
The two returning members of last year’s team are seniors Megan Bobbitt and Ellie Peterson, and a key newcomer to the team will be Magnificat transfer, Julia Gentner.
“(The three girls’) varsity experience from last year, as well as tournament experience, will be very helpful to the team,” Pirates girls varsity head coach Richard Haag said. “Our senior leadership and attitude to work and improve on a weekly basis (will make us) very competitive in all our matches during the season.”
There are six freshmen and five sophomores in the program this fall.
“We’ll develop them through junior varsity matches throughout the season,” Haag said. “We always want to win the WSC tournament and be competitive in all our matches this season, have a strong showing at sectionals – in hopes of sending an individual on to districts – and have a winning season.”
The BAY boys team went 5-7 in the WSC in 2011, and reached the district tournament for the fourth straight year.
The Rockets lost four players to graduation, so returning players, junior Kevin Keefe and sophomore Jack Kyle will be looked on to provide veteran leadership.
“I’ve seen some nice improvement across the board from all of our returning players,” Bay boys head coach Matt Thornsberry said. “We are a young squad, and all (the players) have a tremendous thirst for knowledge and love of the game.
“I’m truly excited to be a part of this team,” he added. “I’m also looking forward to the young men continuing to develop their games this year.”
The Rockets’ girls team has its top five players set, with returning seniors Ciera Miller (three-year starter), Stephanie Sheppa (three-year starter) and Hayley Price; juniors Kelsy Reilly and Betsy Weber; and sophomore Nicole Lyons.
“Ciera will play No. 1 for us,” Bay girls head coach Joseph Cheney said. “She needs to continue to develop consistency. She has the ability to put all three phases of the game together (off the tee, short game and scoring), and must be able to handle the pressure of being our ‘leadoff hitter.’
“Stephanie will play No. 2 for us this year,” he added. “She has the ability to post a low score every time on the course. She must develop consistency. She is our team leader.”
Cheney sees the experience at the top of the lineup and the team’s chemistry as strengths this season.
“I think the girls are hungry after the second-place finish in the conference and fifth-place finish in sectionals (in 2011),” he said. “This team needs to stick together and pick each other up when one player is having an off day.
“Without the presence of a superstar No. 1 golfer like Kaitlyn Neumann of Avon or Nikki Schroeder of Avon Lake, the Rockets will rely on a total team effort in order to be successful this year.”
The NORTH OLMSTED boys team will be led by seniors Alex Arendec and Jon Nola (both 2011 Southwestern Conference honorable mention honorees).
The young team also features juniors Brandon Fatsie and David Brunner. Jimmy Clark heads a very deep freshman class, which is 10 strong.
“The ninth-grade class is quite promising,” Eagles boys head coach Tim Murphy said. “It will be a very tough SWC (this year), with Avon Lake and Brecksville at the top, and Olmsted Falls right (behind them).
“We are hoping to improve on our seventh-place finish last season and are really encouraged with the early play of our young players – who are a year or two away.”
The Eagles’ girls squad is led by senior and four-year starter Katey Hull (captain), who is coming off a very successful summer tournament schedule where she won the Southwest Junior Tour Match Play tournament.
“If Katey plays to her potential, she will be one of the top players in the area,” North Olmsted girls head coach Tony Naples said.
Seniors Erin McGinty and Cathy Rodman will also serve as team captains and are veterans of the team who have improved over last year.
According to Naples, juniors Liz Rodman and Allison Behrendt could be the keys to a successful season, if they can continue to improve early and be in top form for the league schedule.
Sophomore Leah Sladky will be thrust into the No. 2 position this season.
“She has potential to open some eyes if she can gain more consistency in her game,” Naples said.
Rounding out the team is sophomore Claire Masterson and freshman Delaney Mooney.
“The SWC should be a dogfight for first place, with five teams having a chance to take the title,” Naples said.
The WESTLAKE boys team enters the 2012 season with a veteran group of players, led by three-year letterman Connor Evans. He is joined by three-year letterman Matthew Leonard and two-year letterman Matthew Hooper.
Corbin Dunlap led all scorers during tryouts, so he could be a key addition to the Demons’ chances this season.
Trevor Watling, Pranay Arora and Charlie Baddour add some depth to the Demons squad.
“We will be counting heavily on seniors (Leonard, Evans, Hooper and Dunlap) to put up low scores,” Westlake boys interim head coach Brendan Zepp said. “We need to continue to work on our short game and finishing holes by knocking down our putts.”
The Westlake girls squad is coming off an overall record of 10-6 (8-5 in the SWC) in 2011, and is looking to improve on its fourth-place finish in the conference.
The returning letter winners are seniors Ally Adornetto and Sarah Bates; junior Barbara Bobal; and sophomores Loren Kreider, Jordan Labroo and Julia Button.
“Loren is a great player who loves the game,” Demons girls head coach Traci Edmunds said. “At such a young age, she shows great maturity and understanding for the game.
“Senior Sarah Bates continues to take strokes off her game and improve her scores,” she added. “Jordan has the potential to be a great player, and Barbara and Julia have both show great improvement in their swing. Ally has improved her game and I think her scores will be able to help us this season.”
The newcomer to the team is freshman Elise Illius.
“She hits a long ball and enjoys playing,” Edmunds said. “I’m excited to see how well she plays this season and I’m looking forward to her continuing to improve her game.”
Edmunds thinks there is a chance for the Demons to place in the top three in the SWC this season.
“I am really excited for this season, because the girls have worked really hard in the offseason to improve their game,” she said. “The girls know that great golfers have a great short game and that the match always boils down to who can be more successful from 100 yards and in. We will continue to work on our chipping and putting throughout this season, and I’m hoping to see an improvement in their scores because of this.”
The OLMSTED FALLS boys team returns senior Nate Tinny; juniors Scott Lemin, Brian Jones, Alex Mitchell and Ryan Bratsch; and sophomore phenom Alex Torres (2011 district qualifier).
“(Torres) has had a wonderful summer season, in the North Coast Junior circuit,” Bulldogs boys head coach John Holzworth said. “He made second-team All-SWC as a freshman last year.”
“We’re looking at this season, with the exception of Nate, with five underclassmen that are improving their golf game to be solid for next year,” he added. “We’re looking forward to this year, we have some goals set up, but we’re really looking for this to be a season of improvement to have a really good season next year.”
The Bulldogs girls team is looking to improve on its fifth-place finish in the SWC last season.
The returning letter winners are seniors Abby Nichols (captain), Morgan Haviland, Alyshia Boscarallo (captain) and Samantha Meluch; and juniors Ashley Gomez and Jessica Bobik.
The player to watch this season is Gomez, who was second-team All-SWC last year. The team goals this year are to place in the top-four in the conference and to advance a golfer to the district tournament.
LUTHERAN WEST did not respond in time for this story.