Cats reload with familiar spunk, talent

Olivia Corya/The Herald
Annie Getzin has helped the Jasper girls golf team reach the state finals each of the last three seasons. The senior returns to lead a Wildcat team that’s incorporating three newcomers into its varsity mix. Southridge is also retooling after graduating its entire varsity lineup, while Forest Park returns its entire roster and Heritage Hills aims for improvement as a second-year program.

By JOE JASINSKI and BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Writers

Though Jasper girls golf coach Steve Milligan knew he was losing talent from last year’s roster, he said he wasn’t exactly sure just how much. He also knew there would be a possible drop in personality as well, given the host of characters who graduated.

It took Milligan two days to get a better grasp on both mysteries.

Between a trip to Evansville and another to Terre Haute earlier this week, the Wildcats didn’t listen to the radio once, Milligan said. OK, maybe for one song. The girls just talked and joked and jived. But the point is this: The team hasn’t lost its free-flowing character, the one Milligan and his golfers identified as vital to last year’s success.

What does the chemistry suggest? These girls aren’t feeling the stress of expectations.

“The pressure isn’t on this group of kids,” Milligan said. “They’re going to go in there and play well, and without any pressure.”

Anchoring the lineup and perhaps the off-the-course antics will be Milligan’s No. 1 golfer, senior Annie Getzin, and his No. 2, junior Annika Harmon. Getzin fired a two-day team-best 159 at the state finals last year, while Harmon also competed on the state finalist squad as a sophomore.

Supporting the tested tandem will be a foursome of players Milligan labels as “interchangeable.” Seniors Jessica Rillo and Bailey Bromm, junior Catherine Bell and sophomore Madeline Hurst all factor into the Wildcats’ top six. Sophomore Sarah Ackerman and freshman Madylin Horney also could find chances to crack the lineup, Milligan said.

After finishing second at Tuesday’s Terre Haute South Invitational, at which only Getzin and Harmon shot scores under 90, Milligan admitted to being woken up a bit to exactly how much experience was lost from last season.

One day later, the team shaved 28 strokes off its combined score.

“I didn’t realize I lost so much until I stepped back and thought about it,” Milligan said candidly. “But now, we’re rebuilding. And the rebuilding has already started.

“The players are out there to enjoy themselves, play for the team, go out and just have fun. And if they do that, good things will happen.”

SOUTHRIDGE
First, the bad news.

The Raiders move on without their top seven golfers from last season, including regional qualifiers Jessica Oser and Alli Bounds.

The good news? After the exodus of an unusually large senior class, there’s opportunity aplenty for a new cast to seize varsity positions.

“They’re all very excited to play varsity this year. I’m certain they’re ready for the task, but of course with that there’s more rules to learn, more about etiquette and pace of play, stuff like that they’re not used to,” Raider coach Phil Olinger said. “We’re going to go from there, but they do seem excited, and I’m pleased to see that.”

Olinger identified senior Taylor Seufert as the team’s likely leader, while juniors Megan Weitkamp and Rosa Ornelas and sophomore Chloe Huff also played behind the core of seniors last season, when the Raiders finished runner-up in the Pocket Athletic Conference meet. The Raiders also add four newcomers in seniors Emma Mundy and Megan Nicholson and juniors Taylor Sheldon and Paige Snyder.

“We’re just going to start with our short game and work our way up to longer distance clubs,” Olinger said. “Take it a step at a time.”

FOREST PARK
Why wait to begin scratching goals off the list?

When the Rangers put pen to paper to outline their goals, one of this season’s missions was to break 400 for an 18-hole team score. Forest Park achieved that the first time out, firing a 396 in Tuesday’s season-opening Washington Invitational. To the best of coach Bryce Morrison’s knowledge, it’s the best 18-hole mark in Ranger team history.

Six seasoned seniors have Forest Park stocked with plenty of know-how. The pursuit of more goals is ongoing.

“We’ve already started hitting a few of those goals. We’re really hoping to make a run at making it out of sectional. We’re also setting our sights on top three at PAC,” said Morrison, whose team edged defending conference champ North Posey by three strokes in Tuesday’s invitational.

“North Posey’s kind of been the team to beat, and we actually beat them by three strokes in this invitational, which just has us looking forward to competing, at least, at the end of the year.”

Amie Weyer inhabited the No. 1 position last year in the lineup, though she ended up ahead of the Rangers’ No. 2 golfer by about a half-stroke as Morrison said he’s got four seniors who are essentially interchangeable. Brie Englert tied Weyer with a 94 in Tuesday’s debut while Kaylyn Gaesser has showcased plenty of improvement since the start of last season. Jordan Buechler mirrors Weyer in her reliability, Morrison said.

“Amie seems like she’s steady like she was last year. Amie and Jordan have always been steady,” Morrison said. “I think Brie and Kaylyn this year could kind of end up being our X-factor of the team. When they shoot well, I think that’s when we’re really going to post good scores.”

Rachel Metz and Ashley Reckelhoff round out the senior group, and sophomore Hannah Schuler is also back for a team that adds three freshmen.

HERITAGE HILLS
When Heritage Hills coach Dave Jochim reflects on lessons learned from last season, the first for the Patriot girls golf program, one answer — one word, actually — is uttered without hesitation.

“Perseverance,” Jochim said before adding a bit of humor. “They realized hitting a stationary golf ball is a lot harder than they thought. But once they started hitting it, you could see the steady improvement.”

Eryn Jochim, Heritage Hills’ lone sectional competitor last season, will once again pilot the Patriots, who now boast an 11-golfer roster, up five from last season. Dave Jochim said he’s seen his sophomore daughter’s ball-striking improve, but that her real advantage remains her play around the greens.

Dallas Buse, a junior, will serve as the Patriots’ No. 2 and should be capable of pushing Eryn Jochim at times, the Patriot coach said. Buse’s classmates Ashleigh Gideon and Sarah Ayer will also shoulder spots in the starting five while junior Riley Spencer and freshman Caroline Guth could provide support as well.

The season’s first week already has provided examples to Jochim of the girls’ resolve. Gideon soldiered on until the very end of her early-week round, bogeying the final hole. When Buse was struggling on the course, Jochim reminded her about ball positioning. She listened, adjusted and smoked a 3-wood some 175 yards.

“They’re improving, and they understand what I’m trying to tell them,” Jochim said. “And when they do that, they see the results.”

Contact The Herald at sports@dcherald.com.




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