By VINCE PELUSO
The 2013 girls golf season kicked off much like it has for the past several seasons — with the Geneva Eagles standing above the rest of the area competition.
Coach Rob DiPofi’s Eagles won the Karl Pearson Invitational for the fourth-straight season and appear to be a cut above the rest of the competition in the Star Beacon’s coverage area.
But, there are plenty of other teams in the area who are looking to put together strong seasons with youthful rosters and look to get stronger as the season progresses.
The following is a breakdown of each team and how their coach feels about the upcoming season.
The Spartans will have an extremely young team as J.C. Lenk returns for his fifth season as coach.
The only two returning lettermen for Conneaut are Jenna Porfilio (junior) and Lauren Kardohely (sophomore).
Lack of experience is certainly Lenk’s biggest focus going into the year.
“With two years of experience between the five players, we are focusing on learning the game of golf and our fundamentals,” he said. “I am hoping to build on our confidence and consistency as the season progresses.”
Also looking to contribute to this year’s squad are Mikayla Herb (junior), Morgan Holtzman (sophomore) and Sam Clark (freshmen).
Conneaut doesn’t have a conference to compete in but is a part of the NEOGGCA (Northeast Ohio Girls Golf Coaches Association).
Lenk said he sees plenty of talent among the teams in that group.
“Geneva is definitely the front runner again this year and not too many seniors from the league were lost from last year, so I see every team improving from the previous season,” he said. “It should be a fun and competitive year for all the teams in the NEOGGCA.”
Entering her first year as coach of the Warriors, Stacy Harryman will have a few returners to work with in addition to a crop of young, less experienced players.
Back are senior lettermen Emily Petro and Mercedes Burns, as well as Bailey Anderson (junior) and Lauren Hodges (sophomores).
Looking to contribute, as well, are junior Jenna Harryman, sophomores Taylor Fitchet, Adri Snyder and freshmen Gabby Brown and Ja’Lyn Pollard.
“I’m expecting some leadership from my returning letterwinners,” Harryman said. “A lot of the girls lack experience, but I have already seen improvements over the summer.”
This will mark the final season Edgewood doesn’t have a conference to compete in as the Warriors will join the All-American Conference in the spring of 2014.
There is plenty of talent returning for the Eagles and coach Rob DiPofi, in his sixth season at Geneva.
The leader of that pack is junior Danielle Nicholson, 2011 Division I state champion.
Nicholson, who took home medalist honors for the third straight year at the Karl Pearson Invitational, is joined by returning lettermen Caitlin Skufca (senior), Megan Kern (junior), Abbey Scoville (junior) and Alexa Hutchinson (sophomore).
“I believe the girls will have a successful season if they represent Geneva to the best of their ability on the golf course,” DiPofi said. “The girls will also need to work together, help each on and off the course, focus on their academics, as well as communicate to young golfers how fortunate they are to be playing a lifelong game such as golf.”
Plenty of players at Geneva seem to be taking advantage of that opportunity as the Eagles boast one of the deeper rosters in the area.
Battling it out to compete on the varsity level are juniors Megan Clark, Hannah Ruple, Gillian DiPofi, sophomores Hanna Pakkala, Zoie Fuller, Haley Gryzinski, Dannie Duraine and freshmen Ashley Burgard and Anna Minick.
Geneva is coming off a 22-3 season in which it finished first in the Premier Athletic Conference with a 6-0 record.
DiPofi said he isn’t sure how the conference will shake out, but his team is focused on winning its third consecutive league championship.
“I am not sure how things in the PAC will materialize,” he said. “I believe Lakeside returns everyone from last year and should be good. Madison and South both lost some key players, but should be competitive. North stands poised to rebound after a couple of tough years.
“Our goal is to win a third straight PAC championship.”
The Dragons are coming off a 10-9 season in which they went 6-6 in the PAC, finishing fourth.
Coach Bill Neuhofs, back for his 10th season at Lakeside, returns four lettermen — juniors Emily Beckwith, Cassie Dunn, Kaitlyn Koski and sophomore Toni Stranman.
“The girls have to continue to improve their games, especially their short games,” Neuhofs said.
Also looking to contribute on the varsity side this year are Kayla Beckwith (senior), Alexis Benedict (junior) and Taylor Gehring (sophomore).
As far as the PAC is concerned, Neuhofs said he doesn’t expect much to change.
“Geneva should be at the top again,” he said.
The Blue Streaks, in just their second year as a program, will have an extremely youthful roster that hopes to gain experience as the year goes on.
Coach Mike Smith, in his second year coaching the new program, returns just three lettermen — senior Bethany Hess, junior Kasie Berris and sophomore Olivia LeSeur.
“Our keys to success is leadership from our juniors and seniors!” Smith said. “Also to continue what last year’s seniors started.”
Madison had an extremely successful first campaign as a program, going 14-4 overall and 11-3 in the PAC, finishing second.
Looking to contribute on the varsity squad are Taylor Rohl (junior), Hannah Beck (sophomore) and Alyssa Leach (sophomore).
Smith said Geneva is still the team to beat in the PAC.
“Geneva is still the team to beat as Coach DiPofi does an excellent job,” he said. “After that, the league is wide open.”
The Heralds actually won’t field a team this year, but do have two players who will compete as individuals this season.
Returning letterwinners and juniors Sarah Fowler and Evelyn Andersen are the only players on the team.
Coaching the group is Alicia Lewis, who played as the Heralds’ No. 1 last year.
“We only have two girls this year so we will only be competing as individuals,” she said.
Peluso is a sports writer for the Star Beacon. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.