There was an understandable air of uncertainty for coach Jimmy Ryan and the Bexley High School boys golf program following the graduation of five seniors from last year's team.
But as the Lions began Ryan's 11th season, he was feeling confident.
"We graduated five seniors and they were great, but we had our tryout and the new kids were only three strokes worse than the five we had last year," Ryan said. "What I really think is we're reloading."
Senior Matt Abramsom and sophomore Hunter Roberts have returned. Joining them on varsity are sophomores Cameron Karmia and Davis Williams, along with freshman Josh Meyer.
"He's been a pleasant surprise," Ryan said of Meyer. "He shot 78 in a tryout round. We're just into the season and these kids are playing this well, so I really have high hopes for them."
The Lions opened Aug. 7 in the 13-team Teays Valley Invitational at The Players Club at Foxfire and finished sixth (353) behind champion Watterson (325).
Last year's team went 145-14 overall and saw Grant Murphy reach the Division II state tournament at Ohio State's Scarlet Course. Murphy, who finished 34th (88-86, 174) at state, was joined in the 2012 senior class by Kris Craig, Jack Fowler, Tyler Seckel and Shane Weisman.
Those five players competed in the postseason as the Lions won (320) an 11-team sectional at Granville Golf Course and were fourth (321) in the 12-team district tournament at Granville Golf Course behind champion East Liverpool (314).
In the MSL-Ohio Division, the Lions finished second (18-3) behind Columbus Academy (20-1). Fowler and Weisman were first-team all-league, while Craig and Murphy were on the second team and Roberts was honorable mention.
Bexley now is competing in a realigned MSL-Ohio with Academy, Grandview, London, Madison Plains, West Jefferson and Worthington Christian. Whitehall doesn't have a team this season and Granville, Heath, Lakewood, Licking Valley and Newark Catholic have left for the Licking County League.
"I don't know that it'll be as balanced as before," Ryan said. "We still have Academy, and they have been our big rival anyway, but it won't be as deep."
In the postseason, three teams instead of two will advance to state from the district tournament.
Ryan believes Bexley has what it takes to be one of those teams.
"They're young kids and they're going to make some mistakes, but if they can put it together by the end of the season, I fully expect them to play in the state golf tournament," he said. "That's not a rebuilding year, that's really a reloading year.
"These freshmen and sophomores, by the time they graduate, I'll be looking to win my first state title."
Girls golf coach likes team's makeup
First-year girls golf coach Cory Tucker said the Lions have the depth to compensate for losing several players from last year's squad to graduation.
"We have enough girls for two squads this year," Tucker said. "We have an 'A' and a 'B' team. We had a couple girls who graduated, but I still don't look at it as rebuilding the program. We have some new girls who have worked all summer, and they're doing really well."
A year ago, the Lions won Division II sectional, Mid-Ohio Girls Golf League and MSL-Ohio titles. Lost to graduation were Rachael Jackson, who was the MSL-Ohio Player of the Year, Tomania Potter and Emily Reed.
Sophomores Vahni Kurra, Liza Weisman and Cassie Ziance return, while junior Emily Walker and sophomores Alana Hoffman and Christine Lee are varsity newcomers.
Weisman's nine-hole stroke average last season was 43, second on the team behind Jackson (40).
"The great thing about this group is the next couple of years will be very promising," Tucker said. "All but three of the girls are fairly new to the game of golf, but they all bring different character to the game.
"Christine is a level 9 gymnast, so she brings power to the table and we're teaching her to use that in her golf game. Alana is a really good basketball player, and Emily doesn't play other sports but she's going to do well in golf."
Bexley opened Aug. 6 by finishing fifth (464) in the Top 19 Tournament at Pine Hill behind champion Pickerington North B (351). The next day, the Lions were eighth (442) in the nine-team MOGGL tournament at Mentel Memorial behind champion Watterson (328).
"I don't really have any expectations for them score-wise," Tucker said. "At practice all summer long they've been hitting the ball really well, so hopefully that translates to scoring. But the (driving) range is one thing and the course is another."
The Lions will compete in a realigned MSL that includes Circleville, Liberty Union, Logan Elm, Madison Plains, Millersport and Teays Valley.
Last season, they won the MSL-Ohio at 15-0, ahead of runner-up Licking Valley (11-4).
The Lions finished 10th (392) in the 13-team district tournament at Pickaway Golf Course behind champion Logan Elm (351) and won the Blacklick Woods sectional with a 375.
Bexley went 60-16 overall and finished first in its division of the MOGGL at 20-4.
Girls tennis team embracing challenge
The girls tennis team returns little varsity experience after losing five players from last season, including one who graduated a year early.
The 2012 senior class consisted of Sierra Humphrey, Becca Landon, Carly Levy and Hien Ta, while Maddie Copp graduated after three years.
The returnees with varsity experience are senior Hallie Wirthman and sophomores Sammi Levy and Caroline Phillips.
Phillips, who was first-team all-league last season, and junior Sarah Gundy are expected to play singles.
Doubles players include Wirthman, senior Katie Butler and freshmen Allison Meyer and Maggie Walker.
Sammi Levy is suffering from a foot injury. She likely will play singles in the long term but may play doubles early, possibly leaving a singles spot for Meyer or Walker.
The Lions opened Aug. 13 at home against Thomas Worthington.
Singles players Humphrey and Phillips and the doubles team of Copp and Wirthman lost in the first round of last year's Division II district tournament at Columbus School for Girls.
Last year was the first in six seasons under coach Shelby Cheses that a Bexley player didn't advance to state.
Bexley will compete this year in a realigned MSL-Ohio that also includes Columbus Academy, Grandview, London, Whitehall and Worthington Christian. Its league opener is Aug. 22 at home against Academy.
"We should have a good challenge this year," Cheses said. "We have always played, and had good matches, in the past with Worthington Christian.
"This is the first time we'll be playing London. Our biggest challenge, which hasn't changed, is our tough competition against Academy."