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2014 Preview: A rare rebuilding season for New Richmond girls golf

New Richmond coach Neal Ziller works with freshman Kiarra Warner on having the correct grip for putting.1 / 3
Junior Moriah Evans is one of several juniors contending for a spot in the Tiger varsity lineup this season. 2 / 3
Freshman Molly Mason gets in work with her irons as the Tigers practice at the Joe Swanda Learning Center at the New Richmond Golf Club last week. 3 / 3

Having just three of the varsity players returning from last season ranks as a comparative rebuilding season for the New Richmond girls golf team.

After winning every Middle Border Conference match a year ago, the Tigers face a severe challenge in trying to win the team’s fifth straight conference title.

“We’ve had an extremely good golf team for the past six years,” said Tiger coach Neal Ziller.

The Tigers graduated the two top players in the conference in Alex Wheeler and Megan Chelberg. That doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare, by any means.

Seniors Hannah Baker and Emma Ongstad were both top players in the conference last year. Baker ranked third in the conference last season and Ongstad was the 12th-ranked player in the conference. Sophomore Maddi McCann was also in the Tigers’ varsity lineup all through her freshman season.

Among the 19 girls on the Tiger roster, 11 of them are freshman. Ziller said this group reminds him of the freshman group from six years ago that was the leading edge of the team’s last run of long-term success.

“We’re into a slight rebuilding,” Ziller said. “I believe we are looking at a repeat of six years ago.”

Ziller said the team six years ago had excellent leadership from Jessica Williams. He sees the same traits from this year’s seniors.

“There’s a culture of improvement,” Ziller said of the long-term success of the team. “Hannah and Emma are taking that drive and trying to improve it.”

Wilson said the personalities of Baker and Ongstad complement each other well, with Baker being more free-spirited, while Ongstad is more toward the serious side.

Ziller said he expects Baker and Ongstad to be scoring in the low 40s during the season. Ongstad is hitting her drives significantly longer than last season. Ziller said McCann has restructured her game since last season.

“Maddi’s swing is a lot different,” Ziller said. “Last year she had consistency issues. This year she’s got a very solid looking golf swing. She’s got all the tools.”

One of the variables this season will be filling the final two slots in the varsity lineup. Ziller said there are a number of options for those positions. The leading candidates for those positions, at the start of the season, are juniors Beth Duncan, Moriah Evans, Miah Olson and freshman Rebecca Ziller. She is one of four freshmen who are products of the New Richmond Golf Club youth golf program.

Coach Ziller said the Tigers will be in for a battle in trying to add to their string of conference championships.

“I think we’ll be one or two (in the conference),” Ziller said. “Somerset is one team that could come up. Prescott will also be improved.”

The Tigers will be competing in Division 1 in the WIAA tournaments. Ziller said the Tigers will need to work hard to play their way out of the regional tournament, because the regional field will be powerful again this year. The Tigers took second place in the regional last year behind Eau Claire North. River Falls and Hudson are also expected to have strong teams again this year.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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