Ready to get started: MVL, CCC races highlighted in upcoming girls golf season

MIAMI COUNTY — For the Troy girls golf team — as for many local teams — it’s just good to be back.

With golf being one of the low/non-contact sports cleared to begin competition this fall season, the girls golf season will be the first official Ohio High School Athletic Association-sanctioned events happening in the state since mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of winter sports’ postseason and the entire spring season.

“It feels tremendous,” Troy girls golf coach Matt Wibbeler said. “You can see the enjoyment the kids have, too, of being able to go out and have something school related, an activity they can count on. We started going at least three times a week as soon as we were allowed, and every time we were showing up with smiles, and we’re happy to see our friends and be around people. It’s felt very good to get some normalcy back that we’d normally have this time of the year.”

But with the Miami Valley League announcing that its teams will only compete against league opponents in all fall sports, scheduling has still been a challenge.

“It’s kind of a scramble to find enough matches,” Wibbeler said. “We have the most girls out that I think we’ve ever had with 14, and most of our JV matches were out of our league. To get everybody playing time is going to be the biggest struggle.”

Troy’s girls bring back their three leading scorers from last year in Paige Stuchell, Libby Harnish and Delaney Davis.

“They’re going to be our three leaders, which is pretty strong for us to have three players that have some ability and can lead us,” Wibbeler said. “

Sophomores Astha Patel, Savannah Sharett, Elise Hempker and Ashley Kloeker will help to add depth to the team, along with a host of other young newcomers vying for playing time.

“We have a slew of sophomores,” Wibbeler said. “Depending on how much they improve will determine how far we can go and how many matches we can win.”

And with league play being the sole focus in the regular season, the Trojans are hoping to compete for an MVL title in the league’s second year, with defending champion Xenia being the team everyone is gunning for.

“I really look for us to compete at the top of the MVL,” Wibbeler said. “Xenia’s going to be pretty good. We’ll have to try to get towards the top with three good scores instead of one really, really good one. I think we’re probably going to be pretty competitive across the board.”

• Piqua

With the graduation of three of their top four scorers from last year’s 5-8 team, the Piqua Indians are hoping to take steps forward in their second year in the MVL.

“Our goal is to improve on our record from last year,” second-year Piqua coach Tyler Bergman said. “We have lost several key seniors that played a big role last year. If we can improve that record and be competitive in all our matches, we will have a good season.”

Helping to do that will be a trio of returners in seniors Brooklynne Wright and Haley Krogman and junior Kenzi Anderson. Anderson had the Indians’ third-best average last season. Rejoining the team after a year away will be Sierra Grinstead, Ivy Lee will move up to varsity this season and freshman Marin Funderburg will join the team, which is hoping to improve on a 2-5 MVL record from last year.

“I think Piqua will be competitive in the matches this year,” Bergman said. “Greenville and Xenia look to build on impressive seasons last year and will definitely be tough competition.”

• Tippecanoe

After finishing third in the MVL’s first year behind Xenia and Greenville last season, Tippecanoe is hoping to lean on a pair of returning all-league performers to overtake Xenia and also return to the district tournament for the 15th time in 17 years.

Marissa Miller and Sydney Lange both return for their senior seasons after being named first team All-MVL last year, while junior Izzy Brightwell posted the Red Devils’ best round at last year’s district tournament and is back for her third season. Past that, the Devils have a “record number of players trying out,” according to coach Scott Murray.

“Competition for the fourth score and fifth and sixth spot will be exciting,” said Murray, entering his 11th year with the team. “I think the league will come down to Xenia and Tipp. Xenia returns all scores from last season. If we can improve during the season, I think we should have a very good year. It could be the best team we have had in at least four years.”

• Miami East

After an undefeated regular season in head-to-head play last year, a disappointing finish at the league tournament left Miami East tied for second in the Cross County Conference standings last year. This season, the Vikings are looking to claim the top spot.

“(To be) CCC champs. We definitely have the talent to do so,” first-year Miami East coach Ron Patton said of the team’s goals. “We have a very young group of ladies, but they have lots of talent.”

Senior Erin Baker, junior Gretchen Stevens and sophomore Olivia Patton will lead the way for the team, with juniors Addyson Godwin and Taylor Godsey and several freshman adding depth to the roster.

“(We want the girls to) better themselves each round they play, learn from mistakes and improve the next time out,” Patton said. “After a few practices, chipping and putting are area they need to improve on. I can’t emphasize enough for our girls to work on these two things, and they will contend for the CCC and go far in the tournament.”

• Bethel

After two seasons, the Bethel girls earned their way to the district tournament. This year, the Bees are hoping to be in the running for a league title and finish strong in the postseason once again.

“(We want to) build on the team’s success from last season,” third-year Bethel coach Ed Quincel said. “Our goals are to be battling for the league title and improve on last season’s tournament run.”

Back to lead the way for the Bees are returners McKenna Gray, Skylar Johnson and Kerigan Calhoun, with newcomer Sidney Jones joining the team.

• Covington

Senior Katie Hembree and junior Sarah Slusher return to lead Covington’s girls, who will be looking to compete in the CCC with a very young team.

“Three players return from last season, and three freshmen round out our team,” said Covington coach Adam Sweigart, entering his sixth season with the team. “I hope we can be competitive in our league this year, but our youth might be our biggest weakness. There are a lot of good teams in our conference with talented golfers.

“Our goal is to continue to improve with each match we have the opportunity to play. We are extremely young, with three freshmen and a sophomore who have not had many chances to play. Our upperclassmen have the ability to do well this year, but the entire team just needs the confidence and repetitions to get to that point to compete.”