NEW BRITAIN - The beginning of the spring season has not been kind to the area high school golf teams, but the weather seems to have made the turn for the better and the teams are ready to hit the course for some much anticipated matches.
The girls golf teams saw mixed results last season - some were good and competed in the state tournament, while others missed out. This year looks to be more of the same, but the level of play amongst the four teams might be more on par with one another, with plenty of new players replacing some key veteran pieces from 2016.
Berlin and Newington figure to be the best from the area. Both won 17 or more matches last year, but the Redcoats lost four starters and figure to be in a bit of a rebuilding mode after failing to be in close competition for a state title for the first time since 2010. They still have plenty of talented golfers, but it will just be a matter of the supporting cast around them.
The Indians have a small lineup, but they believe they have their best team in quite some time. They just need to stay consistent in every match.
New Britain and Plainville have young golfers that will need time to develop their games and could be interesting to watch as the season progresses.
Here is a closer look at the local teams:
Head coach: Rich Carlson
Last year: 4-9
Key losses: N/A
Key returnees: Ava Morell (sr.), Natalie Brewer (sr.), Monika Mocarska
Outlook: The Hurricanes had some good and some bad moments in 2016, as they finished with a 4-9 record, but this season should be a better one for the team. New Britain has some key golfers returning, most notably star senior Ava Morell, as well as fellow senior Natalie Brewer, and that should be nothing but helpful.
It will just be a matter of what the supporting cast surrounding those two will be able to do as well as if the team can stay consistent every match throughout the season. There will certainly be some hiccups along the way, but it should be a season that sees the Hurricanes made significant improvements.
Head coach: Jim Barnes (8th season, 119-5 record)
Last year: 17-1
Key losses: Alex Perrone, Megan Pskowski, Carolyn Stickel
Key returnees: Jackie Cooper (jr.), Alena Kittleman (jr.), Marisa Marquis (so.), Bridget McQuillan (so.), Darby Trowbridge (sr.)
Outlook: The Redcoats had an unprecedented run of success when they won four titles in five years from 2011-15, but after losing quite a bit of talent entering last season, the team finished just 11th at the state championship despite a 17-1 record.
And entering this season, Berlin will have to replace six lettermen - four of which were starters - meaning the rebuilding process continues. But the team does return a handful of golfers that have seen some varsity time, including Alena Kittleman, Marisa Marquis, Bridget McQuillan, Darby Trowbridge and all-conference golfer Jackie Cooper.
Still, it is the overall inexperience of his team that head coach Jim Barnes believes his players will have to overcome.
“We’re not very tested,” Barnes said. “We don’t have players with a proven ability to post quality scores on a consistent basis.”
While getting back and winning another title will certainly be the goal, gaining that much-needed experience will be crucial along the way to begin the next chapter of Berlin girls golf.
Head coach: Rich Condon (23rd season)
Last year: 18-6
Key losses: Nina DiCioccio
Key returnees: Chloe Bilodeau (jr.), Jessica Pierzchalski (jr.), Taylor Kelly (jr.), Melanie Pantano (sr.), Abigail Buslewicz (sr.)
Players to watch: Karley Welles (sr.), Leah Tofeldt (so.)
Outlook: Newington had a solid season in 2016 and this one could be even better. The Indians are a bit on the small size in terms of roster with only seven players, but head coach Rich Condon believes his team might be stronger than it has been in years past. Whether it translates on the course in matches remains to be seen.
“The results that I’m seeing at the practice range [are] very promising with all seven of our players,” Condon said. “These players are demonstrating much stronger ball striking than recent past teams. I can’t guarantee any number of wins but feel strongly that our scoring average will be better than in recent years.”
One thing Newington does have going in its favor is it is bringing back players that have experience and plenty of good results to boot.
Junior Chloe Bilodeau figures to be the Indians best player. An All-CCC performer the past two seasons, Bilodeau medaled five times last year and is entering her third varsity season. She is joined by fellow junior Jessica Pierzchalski, who is also beginning her third year on the varsity squad and medaled three times last season. Taylor Kelly is the last of the three-year starters to make a return and the junior joined her two classmates in being one of the three to medal and shoot one of the team’s lowest scores in 2016.
Seniors Melanie Pantano and Abigail Buslewicz round out the key returnees and after strong showing last year will be crucial going forward.
The team will also see some players to watch in senior Karley Welles, who is in her first year on the team after playing lacrosse her first three seasons at the school and sophomore Leah Tofeldt.
Overall, it could be an interesting year for the Indians.
Head coach: Mario Pires
Last year: 3-11
Key losses: Taylor Rogers, Jamilex Rosado-Rivera, Sarah Yorski
Key returnees: Haylie Garrison (so.), Arianna Payne-Broderic (so.), Jessica Royce (jr.)
Players to watch: Alexia Sirois (fr.)
Outlook: Last season was certainly a struggle for the Blue Devils and this season looks to be more about growth than anything else with such a young and inexperienced roster.
Plainville lost a few key contributors from a year ago, but nothing too serious and has a solid crop of young golfers that appear ready to take on bigger roles.
Junior Jessica Royce is the oldest of the returnees and is joined by sophomores Haylie Garrison and Arianna Payne-Broderic, while freshman Alexia Sirois will be a player to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Whether the Blue Devils build off their three wins from last season remains to be seen, but this year will more than likely be about building a solid foundation for future seasons. A wait-and-see approach is what might be best to expect, but there should certainly be some positive signs going forward.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach