Collins optimistic despite turnoverJuly 27, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG — Southridge girls golf is bound to look drastically different this year.
The Raiders lost individual state qualifier Baileigh Schneider to graduation last year, and that alone leaves a huge hole for the team. Yet, they also graduated the likes of Meredith Heim and Isabel Morrison in addition to everything Schneider accomplished in 2020.
Still, the Raiders do have numbers this year. They’ll have Emma Marley and Ana Hewitt on hand for their senior years. Collins noted how much Heim took charge as a senior leader last year, and he’s envisioning Marley to do that for the Raiders this year. Southridge also has a trio of juniors in Mollie Birchler, Lidea Balsmeyer and Sidney Layton, plus sophomore Kelly Evans.
“These girls have kind of been playing in (Schneider’s) shadow for a few years, and it’s time for them to step up,” Raiders coach Tom Collins said. “And, I think a few of them have been working at (it) a little bit. They’re not the caliber golfer of Baileigh Schneider, and there aren’t too many of those around — but I think they’re going to be okay.”
Collins noted Birchler, Hewitt and Layton got their scores down at the end of last year. He knows Southridge isn’t going to be as strong as it was, but he does think the Raiders will be competitive.
He believes Layton could be Southridge’s No. 1 golfer in 2021, citing the confidence he expects she will have.
“I think she’s looking forward to the challenge,” Collins said. “She’s a silent type, but I think she’s steady. She just goes out there and she doesn’t let anything bother her. If she does, you wouldn’t know it, and she just plays the game. And I look for her to have an even keel playing — to just be a steady golfer for us.”
Collins estimated Marley will probably be the team’s No. 2 this year, but No. 3 could be Hewitt or Birchler, as he said the two of them were right together, while Evans was in that fifth spot, and while Balsmeyer has some work to do out of that sixth spot, Collins noted that she tries hard.
He knows there are good teams in the Pocket Athletic Conference, and said Southridge would be “thrilled to death” if it could get top five in the conference heading into the season.
The Raiders once again qualified for regionals as a team last season, and Collins knows this season will be a lot tougher. He told The Herald it’ll be tough to get one of those top two spots, but noted it’ll be competitive for that third and final team spot — of which he thinks the Raiders have a chance.
“For the most part, they’ve got the experience,” he said. “A couple of them, this will be their fourth year. They’ve been in the varsity matches, they know what to expect. And I think that now they know, ‘Hey, this is our team. I’m going to have to play a bigger role in this team now.’
“I think they’re going to step up, and I think they’re going to do okay,” Collins continued. “I think they’ll surprise themselves. I’m pretty sure they’ll do that.”
The Raiders’ season is set to open Monday at the Mt. Vernon Invite.
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