By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
and Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
TROY — In the final year of the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division, the Troy girls golf team missed its chance to grab the last league title by a mere two strokes.
As play begins in the newly-formed Miami Valley League, the Trojans are looking to start things out the right way.
After graduating three starters from last year, the Trojans bring back an experience-filled roster, including three juniors and a pair of second-year seniors that hope to help lead the way to a division title and possibly to a district berth in the postseason.
Troy graduated seniors Riley Johnson, Lauren Garlow and Camryn Spencer off of last year’s team. But junior Paige Stuchell led the Trojans in nine-hole average during the regular season with 49.8 — fifth in the GWOC American North individual standings — and fellow juniors Libby Harnish and Delaney Davis also return to the lineup. Stuchell and Harnish both earned spots on the All-GWOC American League team, as well.
“On our first day of practice, those three girls all played pretty well,” said Troy coach Matt Wibbeler, who is entering his fifth year with the team. “Those three girls will definitely all be staples in our lineup.”
Also returning this year are seniors Megan Coate and Maricate Gillespie, who mostly played JV last season.
“We do have a lot of experience this year,” Wibbeler said. “So far we’ve been out to driving ranges a lot and been working on our swings. These girls have experience on the course already, so I can put a girl that’s new with one of our veterans and kind of rely on them to show them the ropes. That’s going to be nice having that experience. I’m relying on them to be a big help this year.”
Joining the roster this year will be three sophomores — Mareesa Uhlenbrock, Ella Fecher and Kami Lehman — and freshmen Savannah Sharret and Asthaben Patel.
“The three sophomores are pretty inexperienced, but they’ve all been putting the time in to get better,” Wibbeler said. “They’re ahead of the curve right now compared to some of the new players I’ve had in the past. And the freshmen are both new players, so we’ve got five players that have been here before and five that haven’t.”
Last year’s GWOC American North Division title was decided solely on performance in the postseason tournament, with regular-season record not coming into play at all. In that tournament, Butler defeated Troy 434-436 to win the title, with all five schools now playing in the MVL Miami Division — Troy, Tippecanoe, Piqua, Butler and Greenville — only being separated by 32 strokes. Sidney departed for the MVL’s Valley Division and will compete against West Carrollton, Stebbins, Fairborn and Xenia.
“The points will definitely be different this year. The last few years, the regular season basically didn’t mean anything,” Wibbeler said. “This year in the MVL, the matches within the league will mean something for the girls, so it will be up to them to play well on a weekly basis. It adds more competitiveness to it.
“Last year, Butler, Tipp, Piqua, Greenville and us were pretty much all right there. If one girl shoots really low, that’s the team that will win, or if someone has a bad day, that’s the team that won’t. But I think all of the teams in the division will be competitive as a whole.”
And when it’s all said and done, Wibbeler hopes to see his Trojans crowned the MVL’s first league champion.
“To be honest, I really think we can win the league,” he said. “I’m just looking for more improvement. We had girls improve by six, seven, even nine strokes last year. If they’re able to duplicate that, we should be in every match. And if we can get someone to get hot at the right time and fill in that fourth or fifth score, hopefully we can get out of the sectional, too. But our main goal right now will be to win the league.”
PIQUA — Tyler Bergman takes over as Piqua coach.
The Indians graduated their top two golfers in Kelsey Bachman and Skylar Sloan but have seven returning letterwinners.
They include seniors Adde Honeycutt, Reece Tate and Hannah Anderson; juniors Brooklynne Wright, Caitlyn Roberson and Haley Krogman and sophomore Kenzi Anderson.
Joining them will be senior Savannah Stevens, junior Mia Whitsell and freshman Ivy Lee and Lainee McMillen.
“We do have a lot of experience,” Bergman said. “It is going to take all of that to replace what we lost. We are just working on getting better every day, which is kind of how it works as you get out here on the course and play every day.”
This will be the first year for Piqua to compete in the Miami Valley League.
“It should be a lot of fun,” Bergman said. “I feel like we can go out there and compete. We are just working on getting better every day.”
TIPP CITY — The Tippecanoe Red Devils have had a strong run in the last decade and a half, reaching the district tournament as a team 13 of the last 15 years.
And with the top four scores coming back from last year’s squad — including the winner of the final Athlete of the Year award in the now-disbanded Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division — the Devils are looking to get back there once again.
Leading the way will be a pair of juniors in Marissa Miller and Sydney Lange. Miller was the top athlete in the division last season, as well as an individual qualifier to the district tournament. Back for their second seasons with the team will be seniors Ava Coppock and Madison Grimmett and sophomore Izzy Brightwell, with six new players battling over the sixth and final spot on the varsity roster.
The team joins the newly-formed Miami Valley League this fall and will compete against familiar rivals Troy, Piqua, Greenville and Butler — last year’s North Division champion.
“We return our top four scores from last year, and the team should be in contention for the league and hopes to advance to the Division I district tournament,” said Tippecanoe coach Scott Murray, who returns for his 10th season leading the Devils. “The team has a lot more experience than last year’s, and it should be beneficial as the season progresses.”
• Miami East
CASSTOWN — Bruce Vanover returns to the helm for the Miami East girls golf team, a team that has reached the district tournament three out of the last four years and won a Cross County Conference title two years ago.
And with five seniors back from last year’s team and losing only two players, Marissa Kearns and Maci Krites, to graduation, the Vikings’ expectations are set high once again.
“I’m hopeful that this year’s team can contend for a CCC title, as we fell short of that goal of winning the league title last year,” Vanover said. “We still had a very successful year, going 14-5, and I hope the experience this team has helps them when it comes to winning another league title.”
Leading the way for the Vikings this year will be the senior class of Paige Lawson, Annelise Logan, Kearsten Kirby, Katie Pottorf and Kirsten Overholser. Juniors Cadence Gross and Erin Baker and sophomores Taylor Godsey and Gretchen Stevens also lettered last season, and joining the team will be sophomore newcomer Addyson Godwin and freshman Olivia Patton.
“This year’s team is looking to improve on its 14-5 record from last year,” Vanover said. “I know this is a lofty goal, as the team will be playing a very strong non-league schedule once again. We’re also hoping to capture another CCC championship this year and improve on our fourth-place finish in the sectional tournament, which would earn us a trip to districts for a third straight year.
“We are excited to have 11 golfers for a second year in a row. And the exciting part of this year’s team is that 10 of the 11 golfers have been taking winter and spring lessons, as well as playing rounds of golf this summer. I hope that helps the team pick up where it left off last season.”
COVINGTON — Adam Sweigart returns as coach.
While the Buccaneers have just five players on the rosters, three return from a year ago.
They include senior Morgan Lowe, junior Katie Hembree and sophomore Sarah Slusher.
Rounding out the team are freshman Emma Elson and Vanessa Ashburn.
“We are counting heavily on the three returning girls,” Sweigart said. “They are all great kids and good leaders. They are working with the two freshman and helping them. I think (as the season goes on), the two freshman will make a lot of improvement.”
Sweigart expects the competition to be tough in the Cross County Conference.
“I think the conference is really strong,” he said. “You have a really strong National Trail team, with Makenna Jones. Then, you have Arcanum, Fort Loramie and Miami East. The conference is going to be really strong. We are not really focusing on the CCC, but just the goals we have set for ourselves and improving every day.”
BRANDT — The Bethel girls golf team is back for a second season as a program, and the Bees are looking to make some big strides with a year of experience under their belts — as well as continue to build for the future.
“As it’s the second year of the program, we are looking to surpass last year’s win total and to challenge for a top-three spot in the final league standings,” second-year Bethel coach Ed Quincel said. “Also, we are looking to continue building the program with new golfers.”
The team returns four letterwinners from last year’s team. Junior McKenna Gray was first-team All-Cross County Conference last year and senior Ashley Newton was honorable mention, and juniors Olivia Reittinger and Skylar Johnson will help add more experience to the roster. Four freshmen — Karley Moore, Grace Bennett, Kerigan Calhoun and Kaylee Brookhart — will vie for the final two varsity spots as the team looks to compete in a tough CCC.
“Fort Loramie has to be the front runner in the league, with Miami East and National Trail also bringing strong challenges,” Quincel said.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter. Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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