2018 Preview: For SCC girls golf, the focus is on progress
The St. Croix Central Panthers own the largest girls golf roster in the Middle Border Conference, with 21 girls competing for the team this season.
That large number of girls has brought new hopes for the team, both in the short-term and long-term.
Second-year Panther coach Logan Kimberly said the intent was to grow the number of girls in the program, but he didn't think it would happen this quickly. With 12 freshmen, plus several other new girls, the Panthers have been allowed to add a third coach to instruct all the girls.
With three members of the varsity lineup returning, the Panthers seem intent on building upon the success they saw last season. The Panthers advanced to the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament last season, where they placed sixth. They saw a Somerset team, which Central defeated in most matches last season, advance to state. That gave the Panthers reason to wonder, why can't they be the team that makes that type of late-season surge this season?
"We're very pleased with the talent pool," Kimberly said of the large turnout for the team. "We're hoping to retain these numbers."
In returning varsity players senior Hanna Wehausen and juniors Brooklyn Mishler and Parker Chladek, the Panthers have a strong trio of players who look ready to improve upon last season. Kimberly said senior Hannah Schwechler, a newcomer to the team, will be in the varsity lineup to start the season.
"She's got a good fundamental swing, she's got all the tools," Kimberly said.
There are a number of girls who are candidates for the fifth varsity position. In the first three early-season invitationals, the Panthers will be taking two teams, so 10 girls will get the experience of competing against varsity-level competition.
After reaching sectionals last season, Kimberly said that his returning letterwinners made returning to sectionals their first goal this season. He said finishing in the top half of the Middle Border Conference standings is another of the team's goals. He said New Richmond and Ellsworth were the top two teams in the MBC last season and both return several top-level players.
While competing at the conference level is important to the Panthers, it's clear that the possibility of reaching the state tournament is an intriguing carrot that dangles in front of them. That's made more appealing knowing that Ellsworth, which finished fourth at last year's sectional, has been shifted to a southern sectional tournament this year.
"We just have to go out and compete. We're not focusing on results right now, we're focusing on improving," Kimberly said.