The Thomas Worthington High School girls golf team hopes to build on what was one of its best seasons in program history.
The Cardinals advanced to the Division I district tournament last season, marking just the second time they have accomplished that feat since their program began in 1996. Their first district appearance came in 2006.
All five of the players who helped Thomas qualify for district last fall have returned and, according to first-year coach Laurie Barr, they are hungry for more success.
Barr and Michelle Umali took over as coaches during the offseason. They replaced Sean Kaiser, who stepped down after his fifth season.
Thomas opened Aug. 7 by shooting a 375 in the first round of the OCC-Ohio Division tournament at Westchester to tie Upper Arlington for third behind Pickerington North (334) and Canal Winchester (366) and ahead of Gahanna (387), Hilliard Davidson (403) and Lancaster (512).
The Cardinals, who finished fourth (13-15) in the OCC-Ohio a year ago behind champion Pickerington North (28-0), then shot a 352 in the 17-team Kilbourne Invitational on Aug. 8 at Glenross to finish eighth behind champion Dublin Jerome (283).
"The five that played last year are back and they've been out on the course a lot," Barr said. "Throughout the summer, they played in some different tournaments. They're just excited for the season."
Senior Ally Lucas and junior Sydney Kelly are the top returnees. In the nine-team sectional at The Links at Groveport last year, Lucas and Kelly shot an 86 and 87, respectively, as the Cardinals carded a 392 to earn the final district-qualifying berth behind Pickerington North (341) and Olentangy Liberty (368).
Seniors Claudia Podolski and Madison Morman and junior Francie Zidonis also are back after rounding out the team's postseason lineup last fall. The Cardinals finished sixth (372) in the nine-team district tournament at Cooks Creek behind champion Dublin Coffman (314).
Junior Monet Davis, sophomore Caroline Podolski and freshman Sidney Smith are others looking to contribute. Podolski missed last season because of an injury. Barr has been Thomas' girls basketball coach the past five seasons and Umali has been one of her assistants. Both have been playing golf recreationally the past few years, according to Barr.
"I know they want to definitely make it back to district this season," Barr said.
Kilbourne coach feeling optimistic
After five consecutive seasons of finishing third in the OCC-Capital, Kilbourne settled for fourth a year ago.
It's a slide that 16-year coach Brian Riegel believes might be temporary.
Having three returnees and a solid group of newcomers, Riegel is excited about his team's potential this fall.
"In my opinion, we may have our best team ever," he said. "Some of our players have been working very hard and playing a lot of golf."
Junior Diana Flynn was one of the Wolves' top players last season and earned their No. 1 spot during tryouts. Also back are senior Leah Nourse and sophomore Micah Vincent.
Junior Sammy Francis and freshmen Abby Chilcoat and Ashley Flynn are other key players. Ashley and Diana Flynn are sisters.
According to Riegel, the Flynn sisters and Vincent all played in several tournaments during the offseason.
Vincent led the Wolves in the Division I sectional last year at The Links at Groveport, carding a 96 to miss advancing to district by five strokes. Kilbourne shot a 431 at sectional to place seventh.
"We saw some players in the low 80s during tryouts, and we had a 76 (in a practice round) at Mentel (Memorial) by Diana, which was our best score," Riegel said. "We're definitely stronger than we usually are at this point in the season. The Flynns played in quite a few tournaments and Micah played a bunch in the spring and some in the summer, and they played at longer distances. I can see the difference in them."
Kilbourne opened Aug. 6 by placing ninth (394) in the 12-team Lady Rocks Invitational at Little Turtle behind champion and host Coffman (309).
The Wolves played the first round of the OCC-Capital tournament Aug. 7 at Oakhaven, finishing second (331) behind Coffman (296) and ahead of Marysville (347), Hilliard Bradley (348), Westerville Central (367), Westerville South (419) and Grove City (425), before placing third (319) in the Kilbourne Invitational.