Big Walnut High School boys golf coach Chuck Workman kept in mind the age of his players when measuring expectations for this season.
"It's kind of a young team," he said. "If we could shoot in the 320s, I would be happy."
The Golden Eagles lost three players from last season to graduation, including T.J. Cowans, who was their only Division I district qualifier a year ago, and junior Ryan Cunningham, whose family moved to Arizona.
Cowans and Cunningham earned second-team and honorable mention all-league honors, respectively, last year as Big Walnut placed fifth in the OCC-Capital Division.
"That's probably, on average, four to six strokes per match," Workman said of the loss of Cowans and Cunningham.
Junior Kyle Gose, who led the Golden Eagles with an 80.2 18-hole average and made third-team all-league last season, is the team's No. 1 player, followed by juniors Kyle Bash and Chad Little and sophomore Jake Wilson.
"I need to have my (No.) two and three players step up," Workman said of Bash and Little. "They're going to need to do that. They're very capable. The more they play through the season, they'll get better."
Also on the team are junior Jared Troyer and freshmen Trevor Dew, Nick Dimitroff and Henry von Hollen.
"The one thing we need to work on is consistency," said Workman, whose team finished eighth in the 14-team Division I sectional at Darby Creek last season. "I'm relying on my three juniors and I need them to be consistent. We'll be competitive for the size of school we are."
Big Walnut opened Aug. 6 by placing sixth (328) in the 21-team North Union Invitational at Glenross behind champion Caledonia River Valley (307). It then finished fifth (339) in the first round of the OCC-Capital tournament Aug. 7 at Apple Valley, behind New Albany (289), Olentangy (309), Mount Vernon (311) and Olentangy Orange (331) and ahead of Delaware Hayes (341), Worthington Kilbourne (348) and Franklin Heights (no score).
The Golden Eagles then placed second (336) in the seven-team Fidelity Federal Savings and Loan Invitational on Aug. 8 at Oakhaven behind champion Delaware (319), with Gose earning medalist honors with a 77.
Big Walnut shot a 336 in the second round of the league tournament Aug. 12 at Darby Creek to place sixth, behind Olentangy (304), New Albany (305), Mount Vernon (313), Orange (324) and Kilbourne (328) and ahead of Delaware (344) and Franklin Heights (no score).
The Golden Eagles are 5-9 in the OCC-Capital heading into the third round Aug. 28 at Turnberry.
"For a small (league), it's very strong and competitive," Workman said. "New Albany was in the (Division I) state tournament last year. They're always good. Mount Vernon is strong, so is Olentangy. Delaware has improved tremendously. But we're right there in it.
"Obviously, we'd like to win (the league), don't get me wrong. But realistically, if we can finish in the top four and compete with the other teams, I'll be pleased."
Big Walnut shot a 351 in a tri-match Aug. 13 at Kinsale to finish behind Gahanna (343) and ahead of Orange (357).
The Golden Eagles then placed third (321) in the 20-team Pickerington Central Tiger Invitational on Aug. 15 at Turnberry behind champion Mount Vernon (316).
Tennis team strives to keep improving
Girls tennis coach Ryan Balaz doesn't want his team to take a step backward this season.
"We want to match what the girls did last year and keep that ball rolling," Balaz said. "We always want to do better every day."
Big Walnut, which finished 13-7 overall and placed fourth in the OCC-Capital last season, returns four seniors in Cali Ford, Bella Goodrich, Bailey Sewalk and Blake Stenger.
"They have all worked really hard to improve," Balaz said. "We have a lot of momentum coming into the season."
Sewalk, who lost in a Division I district-qualifying match in the sectional at Pickerington Central a year ago, and Stenger are expected to play first and second singles, respectively.
Ford, Goodrich and junior Erika Kessler are vying the third singles spot. Whichever two players don't play singles are expected to play doubles. Also competing for playing time at doubles are seniors Allie Berger, Hannah Flynn and Janie Serna.
"For some of these girls, they've been waiting for their time," Balaz said. "Now it's their team and they're taking full advantage of it."
Big Walnut opened Aug. 14 with a 5-0 loss to Gahanna in the first round of the Division I Ohio Tennis Coaches Association tournament and a 3-2 loss Aug. 15 at Westerville South. The Golden Eagles faced Worthington Christian on Aug. 16.
"We're diving right into it: Back-to-back-to-back (matches)," Balaz said.
Big Walnut begins OCC-Capital play Tuesday, Aug. 20, at Olentangy.
"The (OCC-)Capital is going to be really tough," Balaz said. "I'd like to finish in the top four. I need to prepare harder and the girls know there's not going to be any easy wins."
Unlike in past years when the OCC-Capital championship was decided by the combined number of points each team scored in league dual matches and the league tournament, the title will be determined solely by dual records this year.
The champions of the four OCC divisions will compete in a tournament for the overall OCC team title, with the second-place teams in each league, the third-place teams, etc., competing in separate tournaments.
"I really like this (new league format)" Balaz said. "It builds competition."