The Groveport Madison High School boys golf team expects to feel the impact of a lost season this year.
Last fall, as the result of failing to pass a five-year, 7.08-mill emergency levy in May 2013, the Cruisers had only two school-funded athletic programs: football and girls volleyball. The boys and girls soccer teams and the girls tennis team competed with club status and volunteer coaches, while the boys golf and boys and girls cross country programs did not field teams.
All of the Cruisers' athletic programs have returned to varsity status this school year after voters approved a five-year, 6.68-mill levy last May.
Although the boys golf program did not field a team, it was represented in the postseason last year by 2014 graduate Trent Kopala, who shot a 78 in the Division I sectional tournament at Turnberry. The top three individuals not on a qualifying team earned a district berth, with Kopala finishing four strokes behind the final two qualifiers -- Rodney Howell of Pickerington Central and Ryan Pannell of Westerville North.
Groveport's roster is comprised of nine players who have no varsity experience.
"Our weakness would be our youth and lack of competitive playing experience," seventh-year coach Joe Rinkes said. "These are all new golfers with no OCC or competitive experience. We're hoping to offset that with our attitude and our desire to play."
The Cruisers have no seniors. Their roster consists of juniors Holly Baisden and Gavin Wise, sophomores Matt Gillenwater, Chris Royster and Alec Shumaker and freshmen Tucker Falter, Zachary Phillips, Clayton Saunders and Casey Spicer.
"It's like we're starting all over again as a program," Rinkes said. "The good news is that we've never had a junior high team, but this year we started one and we have six participants. It's difficult to compete on the varsity level if you've never played until you reach high school.
"That's why our goal this season is to just show improvement every day. We want to continually put ourselves into competitive practices and competitive matches."
Rinkes said the fact that it wasn't known until May that the Cruisers would be fielding a team this season made it difficult to put together a full schedule.
"Although I'm still looking to add some dual matches against teams at our competitive level, we only have six events lined up (as of last week) and four of those are (OCC-Ohio Division) rounds," he said. "We'll have plenty of practice time, which is a good thing.
"When you're coaching an entire group of first-time golfers, you're not just teaching hitting balls or particular shots and you're not worrying about birdies and pars. I'm teaching golf etiquette, things like replacing divots, pace of play, filling out scorecards and ball placement. They can't learn that from their teammates. They're being thrown into the fire."
Groveport opened Aug. 6 in the 14-team Chuck Otte Memorial tournament at Oak Hurst, shooting a 437 to finish 12th behind champion Hilliard Davidson (304). Gillenwater led the Cruisers with an 86.
Groveport competed in the first round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 7 at Darby Creek and participated in the Federal Fidelity Invitational on Aug. 8 at Oakhaven.
The Cruisers shot a 509 in the league event to finish last, behind Pickerington Central (317), Reynoldsburg (321), Pickerington North (329), Grove City (331), Gahanna (335), Lancaster (368) and Newark (407). They finished sixth (458) in the six-team Fidelity Federal Invitational, behind champion Big Walnut (326).
The second round of league play was held Aug. 11 at Apple Valley.
"The key for us this year is to have the kids stick with it through high school and I think we can encourage that by making it fun and teaching them well so that they can see their progression," Rinkes said. "If they are rewarded by witnessing their improvement, they'll be more likely to continue. I'm hoping we can make a big stride in the program next spring and summer."
Girls tennis team seeks improvement
The girls tennis team returns four letterwinners, including three starters, for first-year coach Cody Masters.
Groveport opens Tuesday, Aug. 19, with an OCC-Ohio match at Gahanna.
"We have some experience back and we have good senior leadership on a team that is showing maximum effort as we prepare for the season," said Masters, who replaced Doug Ewart, who retired after coaching the girls and boys teams for 35 years. "Plus, I've heard we have some other girls, including a move-in, who are interested in playing, but they weren't sure when we had tryouts. So we could have additions to the roster as we move along."
Seniors Jordan Gilmore, Elise Goodwin and Cheyenne Morris are returning starters. Also back is senior Raquel Hawkins.
Last season, Groveport finished 5-11 overall and went 0-7 (5 points) in the OCC-Ohio to place eighth behind champion Pickerington Central (42, 7-0). The Cruisers scored 16 points in the eighth-place OCC tournament to tie Westerville North for first, ahead of Central Crossing (13) and Franklin Heights (5).
Groveport competed in the Division I sectional at Pickerington Central but did not have any district qualifiers. Gilmore went 1-1 in singles, the doubles team of Morris and 2014 graduate Lindsey Ferrin went 1-1 and the doubles team of Goodwin and her sister, 2014 graduate Alex Goodwin, lost in the first round.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
"Elise Goodwin brings experience and competitiveness and is the unquestionable leader of the team," Masters said. "Cheyenne Morris and Jordan Gilmore are an experienced doubles duo who are expecting a solid season."
Also on the roster as of last week were four first-year players in sophomores Alexis Justice and Eve Mwanzia and freshmen Raaya Cummings and Jnae Deslandes.
"Raaya Cummings is a first-year participant that brings athleticism and quickness to the court," Masters said. "She has a very bright upside. She could be paired with Raquel Hawkins for another good doubles team.
"Our goal is to be competitive and beat the teams we should beat. We also want to push the teams that are more talented and experienced than us."
Aug. 6 -- Chuck Otte Memorial at Oak Hurst
Aug. 7 -- OCC-Ohio at Darby Creek
Aug. 8 -- Fidelity Federal Invitational at Oakhaven
Aug. 11 -- OCC-Ohio at Apple Valley
Aug. 27 -- OCC-Ohio at Clover Valley
Sept. 10 -- OCC-Ohio at Turnberry
*Aug. 19 -- at Gahanna
Aug. 21 -- at Whetstone
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Grove City
*Aug. 28 -- at Pickerington Central
*Sept. 2 -- at Lancaster
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Newark
Sept. 10 -- at Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 11 -- at Pickerington North
Sept. 16 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy
*Sept. 18 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Sept. 20 -- OCC tournament at TBA
Sept. 22 -- at Hartley
Sept. 25 -- vs. Hamilton Township