After a 2011 season in which it won just five OCC-Capital Division matches, the Westerville Central High School girls golf team set a goal of simply getting better last season.
It would be tough to argue with the results considering the Warhawks more than doubled their league win total by going 11-13 and shot what is believed to be a program-record 354 while winning the Central Ohio Early Birdie tournament a year ago.
With four returnees, coach Steve Stewart believes there could be even more success this fall.
Central opened Aug. 7 by shooting a 367 in the first round of the OCC-Capital tournament at Oakhaven to place fifth behind defending champion Dublin Coffman (296), Worthington Kilbourne (331), Marysville (347) and Hilliard Bradley (348) and ahead of Westerville South (419) and Grove City (425). Westerville North did not post a team score.
On Aug. 12, Central was unable to defend its title in the Central Ohio Early Birdie as it finished third (343) in the 17-team event at Minerva Park behind Watterson (321) and Pickerington North B (338).
"(The girls) all have been playing over the summer, so we're definitely seeing improvement in their games," Stewart said. "They all worked over the summer and several of them have played competitively. As a result, they're in good form."
Ana Borish is the top returnee for Central, which went 59-26, placed fifth in the league and fifth in the nine-team Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial last year. The junior shot an 89 at sectional and beat Dublin Scioto's Nicole Evans in a playoff to qualify individually for district, where she carded an 88 to finish 14 strokes behind the second and final state qualifier.
Also back are seniors Emma O'Brien and Alexandra Hansen and sophomore Ellyn Briggs. Rounding out the roster is junior Melissa Kirwin.
"My goal every year is to come in and work hard and to continue to improve each week," Stewart said. "I have no doubt each of them has individual goals."
Wildcats return strong nucleus
South has returned its top five players from a year ago, including junior Felicia Davenport.
Last season, Davenport shot an 85 in the nine-team Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial to advance individually to district, where she shot an 81. South finished last at sectional.
"Felicia played in a lot of tournaments in the offseason," coach Jeff Owdom said. "She was in a junior LPGA event in Washington, D.C., and she's probably averaging in the high 70s to low 80s right now. Felicia has the opportunity to be medalist every time she plays."
Also back are senior Kaitlin Carlisle and sophomores Kirstin Doty, Kaitlin Dreher and Kieley Stroupe. Sophomore Samaria Doughty also is looking to contribute to the Wildcats, who opened Aug. 7 by placing sixth in the first round of the OCC-Capital tournament.
The Wildcats did not score in the Central Ohio Early Birdie on Aug. 12.
"Kieley and Kaitlin are definitely both more experienced and they will hopefully shoot better than last year," Owdom said. "We're basically looking for one of the other ones to put up a score. I think we'll be competitive."
Warriors fielding inexperienced team
North has no seniors and just one player with varsity experience on its roster.
The lone returnee is junior Monica Kloepfer, who often was the Warriors' No. 2 player last season.
Freshman Lizzy Nelson also is expected to be a key player.
Rounding out the team are sophomores Phoebe Alicardi and Diana Asta and freshman Kelsey Cox.
The Warriors, who finished last in the OCC-Capital and last in the 10-team Division I sectional at Oakhaven last season, opened Aug. 7 in the first round of the OCC-Capital tournament but did not post a team score.
"We've got a lot of new faces," coach Lane Halterman said. "It's a rebuilding year again, but it's nice to have a young team. Right now, we're focusing on the fundamentals and trying not to overwhelm anybody. With golf, you've got to learn the rules and etiquette and learn how to compete. A lot of things will get taught on the course."