Loaded Bull Dogs seeking another high state finish in ’16

The past two girls golf seasons have yielded big results for Columbus North.

Two years ago, the Bull Dogs came away with a fifth-place finish at the state finals. Last year, North took seventh.

With their top six golfers back from last season, including four that were part of the fifth-place team in 2014, the Bull Dogs enter this season with high hopes.

“We’re very optimistic,” North coach Scott Seavers said. “We look forward to a great year.”

Back to lead the Bull Dogs is senior Holly Anderson, last year’s The Republic Girls Golfer of the Year. Anderson, who recently committed to Ball State, averaged 78.5 in 11 18-hole matches last season.

Junior Danbi Kim was right behind Anderson with an 81.6 average. Sophomore Alex Munnicha averaged 83.3, while junior Julia Luken and senior Aubrey Smith each averaged 88.0.

“I expect great things from Julia,” Seavers said. “I think she’ll really step up this year.”

Junior Molly Donnell was North’s No. 6 golfer and played in some varsity matches. Anderson’s sister, freshman Annie Anderson, also could challenge for a varsity spot.

“She’s capable, and she knows the game, and she’s very athletic,” Seavers said. “(Donnell) got a lot of experience last year. She made the biggest improvement of anybody last year, so I expect her to get better and compete. We have some young girls that really like golf and show a lot of potential so far and are only going to get better.”

The Bull Dogs will have a chance to see how they stack up against some of the state’s best teams on Saturday when they open the season in the Fall Preview at Prairie View in Carmel, site of the state finals.

North is hoping for a top-four finish at state, which would put it on the medals podium.

“I do think we have that potential,” Seavers said. “It would take some really good golf to to do it. We have some experience and some very good girls that have put in the time and effort to do it. But we know that our regional is tough, and we’ll have to play well at the regional just to make it to state.”

Columbus East

Olympians coach Troy Buntin doesn’t want to call it a rebuilding year. But after losing its top three golfers to graduation, East will be short on experience.

Only two players have much varsity experience for the Olympians. Juniors Lily Shelp and Autumn Fateley will lead the way this fall.

“It’s a growing year,” Buntin said. “I have high expectations of Autumn and Lily to get better. After that, we have new players. It will be interesting to see what happens between now and the end of the season to see if they improve.”

Junior Zoe Rangel, who played as a freshman, is back out for the team after sitting out last season. Others battling for varsity spots include juniors Natalie Ryan and Liz Kroger; sophomores Jaelyn Carmer, Kati Brunn, Sarah Miller and Ellie Buntin; and freshman Lauren Steinwedel.

Last year, East finished third in the Hoosier Hills Conference, second in the Greensburg Sectional and 10th in the Lapel Regional. The Olympians hope to finish in the top half of HHC again and advance to regional.

“We just want to get better,” Buntin said. “It’s hard. You have two returning players and then three potential starters that are beginners, you’re going to struggle. So I have very limited expectations, but we want to get better to get experience and be somewhat competitive.”

Jennings County

The Panthers lost their top golfer but return five other players with varsity experience.

Sophomore Peyton Whitehead was a regional qualifier last season. Sophomore Marina Sigmund and juniors Rachel Greene and Allie Clark also return from the postseason lineup.

“Judging by Friday and Saturday and their scores, they’re all going to be kind of battling,” Jennings coach Kellie Barriger said. “Peyton will be the leader, and the rest of them should be pretty competitive.”

Sophomore Sydney Campbell saw some varsity action last season and could be the No. 5 golfer this fall. Sophomore returner Lauren Mull also could push for a varsity spot.

The Panthers finished seventh in the HHC last season and were fourth in the Madison Sectional, missing a regional berth by one spot.

“As a team, I want to make it out of sectional,” Barriger said. “We have a couple that were out there almost all summer practicing, which is good. I hope their averages are better than they were last year, and they should be with how hard they’ve been working.”

Brown County

The Eagles experienced some program highs last season, setting school records for both nine- and 18-hole matches. They made big strides to finish sixth in the Western Indiana Conference and seventh in the Bloomington North Sectional.

Senior Emma Bawinkel set individual nine- and 18-hole school records.

“She plays all the time,” Brown County coach Brad Baughman said. “Good weather, bad weather, she’s out on the course pretty much every day.”

Sophomore Ashley Masteller joined Bawinkel in earning All-Conference honors. Senior Tori Akles and juniors Lauren Burker, Meghan Cassiday, Kacee Kleindorfer and Jessica Taylor also return.

“Those five girls should have some pretty healthy competition for the 3 through 6 spots,” Baughman said. “Hopefully, a couple of them can have good, competitive scores that can factor into the equation. Our starting point is far ahead of where we’ve started previous years.”

Edinburgh

The Lancers lost three of their top five golfers but return four of the seven who played last season.

Junior Vanessa McManaway was Edinburgh’s No. 2 golfer, and junior Makenzie Hill was No. 4. Juniors Savannah Kellams and Kierra Richards also return, and sophomore newcomer Maddie Giles could join them in the top five.

“Out of those five, I know three or four of them have been getting lessons in the offseason, so that’s a good thing,” Edinburgh coach Doug Weddle said.

The Lancers finished second in the Mid-Hoosier Conference and ninth in the Bloomington North Sectional last season.

“Indian Creek is out of our conference now, so hopefully, we can improve on our second-place finish and maybe have a shot at winning it this year,” Weddle said.

Trinity Lutheran

The Cougars have a new coach in 2012 Trinity graduate Nate Benter, and he figures he’ll have just enough golfers to field a team.

Trinity finished sixth in last year’s Bedford North Lawrence Sectional.

Three of the four players from last season are back in seniors Demi Oakes and Macy Taylor and junior Morgan Gabbard. Freshman Anna Benter, the coach’s sister, will join them.

“They have some potential, and they have some things that they can work on to continue to improve,” Nate Benter said. “I’m just going in kind of open minded this year and hoping the girls can improve on an individual level and see where that leads us.”

If you go

The 2016 Columbus East and Columbus North girls golf schedules:

Columbus East

Thursday;at Whiteland;5 p.m.

Monday;at Batesville;4 p.m.

Tuesday;at Jennings County;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 13;at Lapel Invitational;1 p.m.

Aug. 15;Seymour;4:15 p.m.

Aug. 17;Greenwood;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 20;at Connersville Invitational;1 p.m.

Aug. 22;at Franklin;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 24;at Seymour;4:15 p.m.

Aug. 27;HHC at Valley View;2 p.m.

Aug. 30;Bloomington North;4:30 p.m.

Sept. 1;at Shelbyville;4:45 p.m.

Sept. 3;at Bloomington South Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 6;Greensburg;4:30 p.m.

Sept. 13;Columbus North;4:15 p.m.

Sept. 15;at Greensburg;4:30 p.m.

Columbus North

Saturday;Fall Preview at Prairie View;1 p.m.

Monday;Perry Meridian;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 13;at Greensburg Invitational;9 a.m.

Aug. 15;at Greenwood;4 p.m.

Aug. 18;Jennings County;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 20;at Roncalli Invitational;1:30 p.m.

Aug. 22;at Bloomington North;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 23;Seymour;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 25;Shelbyville;4:30 p.m.

Aug. 27;Hall of Fame at Greensburg CC;12:30 p.m.

Aug. 29;at Southport;4 p.m.

Sept. 3;at Bloomington South Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 6;at Franklin (with Center Grove);4:30 p.m.

Sept. 7;Martinsville;4:30 p.m.

Sept. 8;at Whiteland;5 p.m.

Sept. 10;at Franklin Central Invitational;1:30 p.m.

Sept. 12;Conference Indiana at Cascades;9 a.m.

Sept. 13;at Columbus East;4 p.m.

Sept. 14;at Greensburg;4:30 p.m.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.