Girls Golf: Westerville South continuing to build stronger program

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Senior Katherine Blais is expected to be among the top performers for the South girls golf team and third-year coach Matt Yingling.

Third-year coach Matt Yingling is pleased with the development of the Westerville South girls golf program.

The Wildcats have five seniors and 10 players overall, allowing Yingling to form a junior varsity team for the first time during his tenure.

"I'm really pleased for the girls on the team to have that chance to compete since I have so many seniors on my squad," Yingling said. "It's a blessing for them to be able to play their senior season. The j.v. team is going to be a good way to build that continued growth for the program down the line."

South began the four-round OCC-Buckeye Division tournament Aug. 12 at New Albany Links and will play in the second round Wednesday, Aug. 19, at Mentel Memorial.

South went 6-14 in the league last season, a record Yingling expects to improve upon.

"Our team wants to have a winning record," he said. "They would like to improve upon where they finished in the OCC last year. They finished fourth of six teams. They would like to jump up from that. They'd also like to finish higher than they did at sectional (where they were 10th). ... They want to be better golfers and enjoy the game."

Senior McKhala Eckert led South (93) in a Division I sectional last fall.

"I like to help the other girls when they're struggling," Eckert said. "I really don't mind playing No. 1. At first, my sophomore year playing No. 1 it was a bit scary, but over the years I've just got used to it."

Also back is senior Katherine Blais, who had a team-best 107.3 league average last season.

Other returnees are seniors Nia Cosby and Layla Goebeler and sophomore Alexzandria Stewart.

Warhawks hope to add depth

Central entered the season with just four players, but coach Aaron Starkey hopes to add to the roster.

"One of the difficulties this year is that everybody is going to take their own circumstances into account," said Starkey, who is in his seventh season. "I'm down to four, so we're down to the bare minimum in terms of posting a (team) score."

The top returnee is senior Katelyn Neil, who is expected to replace 2020 graduate Grace Welty as the No. 1 golfer. Welty was OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year with a 79.3 average, and Neil (89.0) was second-team all-league.

"I'm looking for Katelyn, who was my No. 2 last year, to step up," Starkey said. "She's done so over the summer."

Senior Zoie Tee, who was honorable mention all-league last season, is the No. 2 golfer.

"Katelyn and Zoie have been playing in a lot of tournaments over the summer and doing really well," Starkey said. "I feel really good about my one and two. They just look better. Zoie's swing looks tighter and a little more balanced. We're hoping they can provide us a little consistency."

Junior Lucia Parrill also returns, and sophomore Caroline Kenderski rounds out the team.

Central, which finished second (15-5) in the OCC-Buckeye last season behind Olentangy Liberty (20-0), opened league play Aug. 12 at New Albany Links.

"Liberty has been competitive the last few years," Starkey said. "Last year, we all went into it knowing they were supposed to be the top dog and they upheld that. They played well and finished first in the conference. We were able to finish second, but I lost a stud in losing Grace Welty. I could count on her for a low round every time we went out."

-- Frank DiRenna

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Warriors look to improve 'every day'

North returns only two golfers with varsity experience. Makaiya Blankenbeckley, the team's lone senior, and sophomore Danielle Halterman hope to lead a roster of seven.

"Makaiya and Danielle are the only ones with golfing experience," sixth-year coach Betsy Gegick said. "The rest of the girls started playing in the spring or later. They are beginners, and they are very green.

"I appreciate that we have a good group of resilient girls that are hard-working. They are doing a great job of that, and it's what you want as a coach. It's great to see how they improve every day."

Juniors Claire Gleason and Ashlynn Voll and freshmen Calleigh Gleason, Mary Gleason and Hailey Tessman round out the roster. Claire and Mary are sisters and Calleigh is their cousin.

"The biggest thing with young golfers is that you need to be positive and encouraging," Gegick said. "I want to look at the positive pieces and teach them to be patient with themselves. I tell them that they are brand new to the sport, and that it takes time to get better.

"We want to approach it with encouragement and patience and try to have a lot of fun. The lessons they get from working hard and being patient are more important than how competitive we are."

The Warriors played in the first round of the four-round OCC-Buckeye tournament Aug. 12 at New Albany Links.

-- Scott Hennen

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At a glance

CENTRAL

*Coach: Aaron Starkey, seventh season

*Top players: Katelyn Neil and Zoei Tee

*Key losses: Anna Borders, Page Dieter and Grace Welty

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Olentangy Liberty (20-0), Westerville Central (15-5), Olentangy (13-7), Westerville South (6-14), Westerville North (4-16), Olentangy Orange (2-18)

*2019 postseason: Third at sectional, seventh at district

NORTH

*Coach: Betsy Gegick, sixth season

*Top players: Makaiya Blankenbeckley and Danielle Halterman

*Key losses: Emma Diehl, Ella Holtzmuller, Sydney Johnson and Alexyss Smith

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (20-0), Central (15-5), Olentangy (13-7), South (6-14), North (4-16), Orange (2-18)

*2019 postseason: Ninth at sectional

SOUTH

*Coach: Matt Yingling, third season

*Top players: Katherine Blais and McKhala Eckert

*Key loss: Amelia Kidder

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Liberty (20-0), Central (15-5), Olentangy (13-7), South (6-14), North (4-16), Orange (2-18)

*2019 postseason: 10th at sectional