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Prep girls golf preview: Middleton's machine looks ready to do some more grinding this fall

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2018 CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

Badger North: Waunakee; Sam Soulier, Waunakee.

Badger South: Stoughton; Claudia Seeman, Milton.

Big Eight: Middleton; Glenna Sanderson, Middleton.

Rock Valley: Edgerton (won playoff over East Troy in conference tournament); Caroline Christiansen, East Troy.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sophie Denure, jr., Portage: Took third in the Badger North as an individual last year and could challenge for the top spot. “Sophie is starting to really get an understanding of the game of golf as a whole, and all of the little things she needs to do to score on the course,” Warriors coach Ed Carlson said. “(She) has tremendous intangibles in so many areas.”

Maya Heckmann, jr., Lakeside Lutheran: Finished 12th individually at WIAA Division 2 individual state last year (87-91-178). Coach Kyra Lostetter said Heckmann, the team captain, has played “all summer” in tournaments, “and we have already noticed a couple of strokes dropping off her scores.” Ranked No. 10 in the class of 2021 by Wisconsin.golf.

Caitlyn Hegenbarth, jr., Madison Edgewood: Took fifth at D2 individual state (82-76-159). “She is still younger in experience and tournament play than my seniors, but is arguably the most competitive of the players on the team,” Crusaders coach Peggy Gierhart said. The state’s No. 4-ranked junior, according to Wisconsin.golf.

Caylie Kotlowski, jr., Stoughton: Ranked No. 3 among state juniors by Wisconsin.golf after shooting a first-day 73 and finishing at 8-over-par 152 for fourth place in the WIAA Division 1 state tournament. She was first-team All-Badger South Conference, first-team All-State and a sectional champion, too.

Myranda Kotlowski, sr., Stoughton: After a strong summer, rose to the No. 6 ranking among state seniors by Wisconsin.golf. A second-team All-Badger South player to finished third in her sectional to miss out on a state berth. Beat out her second cousin, Caylie, for the No. 1 spot in Stoughton’s lineup this fall.

Anaka Leske, sr., Madison Edgewood: Took 15th individually in last year’s WIAA state meet. Gierhart, who said Leske works regularly with legendary coach Larry Tiziani, played in multiple Wisconsin PGA Juniors summer events. “I am expecting her to be her most comfortable this year, and most confident.” Ranked No. 17 among state seniors by Wisconsin.golf.

Kate Meier, sr., Middleton: Earned Big Eight Conference Player of the Year honors last year, finishing one stroke behind teammate Glenna Sanderson atop the conference meet leader board. Went on to take fifth at Division 1 state (78-77-155). “Kate is a strong voice on our team; a girl who leads without effort, and younger players follow without question,” coach Becky Halverson said. Has not chosen a college yet. Ranked No. 4 among state seniors by Wisconsin.golf.

Carly Moon, sr., Baraboo: “Baraboo returns one of, if not the best, players in the conference in Carly Moon,” Mount Horeb coach Nolan Krentz said. Qualified for Division 1 state last year and finished 50th. Ranked No. 13 among state seniors.

Glenna Sanderson, jr., Middleton: Finished 18th at Division 1 state golf last fall, after winning Big Eight Conference medalist honors. “Glenna has shown great growth with her confidence (which) seems to be reflected in her summer scores,” Halverson said of the junior, who did not take up golf until her freshman year. Ranked No. 8 among state juniors.

Andrea Schleeper, sr., Verona: Finished seventh in the Big Eight Conference meet last year, but was knocked out (along with her team) in regional play last year. Ranked No. 15 among state seniors.

Claudia Seeman, sr., Milton: The defending Badger South Conference champion went on to place 25th at Division 1 state. “Claudia has one of the purest swings that I have ever seen, and it was exciting to see her talent show on multiple occasions last year,” coach Brady Farnsworth said. Ranked No. 14 among state seniors.

Grace Welch, sr., Madison Edgewood: The recent UW-Green Bay commit, Edgewood’s No. 1 player for the last four years, tied teammate Grace Jaeger for third place in last year’s Division 2 state tournament, helping the Crusaders roll to a team championship. “(She) brings a lot of experience, strength, commitment and amazing work ethic,” Gierhart said. Ranked No. 5 among state seniors.

FOUR THINGS TO WATCH

The Middleton machine: Coach Becky Halverson’s Cardinals finished eight strokes short of Wales Kettle Moraine in last year’s WIAA Division 1 state tournament. Kettle Moraine is expecting another good year, but Middleton has come out on top in one of two early season meetups so far. What has observers excited about the Cardinals is that their top four players all return, led by senior Kate Meier (fifth at state last year), junior Glenna Sanderson (15th), sophomore Ellie Frisch (20th) and senior Makenzie Hodson (34th). Competing for the No. 5 spot are two players ranked among the state’s top 15 sophomores: Milanne Dahmen and Karlye Kriewaldt.

New coaching blood: Verona has a new coach with a name as recognizable as her swing: Gabby Curtis. The holder of the second-best career stroke average in University of Wisconsin history (74.65), Curtis hopes to lead the Wildcats to what would be their sixth WIAA state tournament trip overall and fourth since 2013. Also, Mike Schmidt has taken over an Edgerton program that has seen recent success in the Rock Valley Conference.

Edgewood seeks repeat: Another program with rich history and a slew of returning standout players is Madison Edgewood, which won its 14th WIAA state championship since 2001 last fall, finishing an insurmountable 60 strokes ahead of runner-up Appleton Xavier and placing three players among the top five individual finishers. Returnees abound, including senior UW-Green Bay commit Grace Welch (tied for third individually last year), senior Anaka Leske (15th), junior Caitlyn Hegenbarth (fifth) and junior Grace Jaeger (tied for third). The pieces are in place for another strong year — and a strong future — for coach Peggy Gierhart’s program.

North winds of change: Three-time defending conference champion Waunakee expects to be right in the running for another North title, but this year, a couple of competitors appear ready to throw a tougher challenge the Warriors’ way. With four returnees from last year’s top five, Reedsburg is seen as a potential title challenger. And according to DeForest coach Scott Siemion, “Baraboo and Portage have strong top players, and if they find some depth, could compete for the conference title.”

CONFERENCE CAPSULES

BADGER NORTH

Overview: Waunakee is the consensus conference favorite, with Reedsburg and Portage seen as top challengers and Baraboo and DeForest hoping to get in the mix.

Waunakee not only won a third consecutive Badger North title last year, the Warriors earned a team state berth for the first time since 2011 and finished sixth in a strong field. Though top player Sam Soulier has moved on to play at the University of Minnesota, coach Paul Miller said five letterwinners return, led by senior Brooke Ehle and juniors Aly Kinzel and Sydney Grimm. All three are ranked individually in their classes by Wisconsin.golf. “(Even) players competing for the fifth varsity spot have competitive experience as well,” Miller said, adding that team goals are to win another Badger North title and return to state.

Reedsburg, under eighth-year coach Jesse Monte, took fifth in the Badger North last year but returns four veterans and has high hopes for a good year. “We have some individual goals that will lead to our team goals,” Monte said, “(but) no matter what goals we have, it is still taking one swing at a time.” Senior Anna Krieski led the team in scoring last year and is off to a strong start; seniors Ashley Krieski and Kaitlyn Brunken bring two years of experience apiece to the lineup, and sophomore Grace Benish returns.

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Portage returns two top-five players from last year, including one of the league’s top returnees in junior Sophie Denure, a two-year letterwinner. The Warriors’ other co-captain will be senior Rachel Hepler, described by Carlson as a coachable player with a will to improve. “I have a feeling that this team will develop some really nice chemistry. … This is really a well-rounded group,” Carlson said.

DeForest returns three top-five players from last year’s team, which finished third in the Badger North, and coach Scott Siemion is predicting another strong season. “Our program is in its fourth year, and each season has produced better team and individual results,” Siemion said. “We hope to continue on that gradual improvement pace.” Sophomore Taryn Endres will hold down the Norskies’ No. 1 spot, with junior Lexi Scheuerell, senior Isabelle Manzetti (a fourth-year varsity player) and junior Tori Schnell stepping up. Siemion said Scheuerell “has worked incredibly hard this off-season,’ and Schnell “has shown wonderful improvement each season.”

Baraboo has a terrific leader in senior Carly Moon, who took ninth in this week’s big Wisconsin Dells Invitational, shooting 41 on the back nine at Coldwater Canyon for an 85. Support is expected from Adele Griffin, Sadie Schlender, Caroline Lewison, Meg Turkington and Zann Peterson.

Mount Horeb coach Nolan Krentz hopes to move up from last year’s winless Badger North finish, and the Vikings have the tools to show some improvement in the short and long term. Four letterwinners return, and one’s a junior and three are sophomores. Back are juniors Ellie Lombardo (47.7 average last year) and sophomroes Alice Firmino, Lilli Ryan and Emily Wallace. Junior Gabi Dobereiner will become a key contributor after playing volleyball last fall.

The Beaver Dam/Wayland co-operative program has no returning players after sending standouts Ashley Kulka to UW-Green Bay and Kendra Swanson (13th at Division 1 state last year) to UW-Stout. “We have no tournament experience. We are starting at the bottom,” coach Tim Chase said.

BADGER SOUTH

Outlook: Madison Edgewood is a heavy favorite, but Milton’s program seems to be back on the upswing and Stoughton hopes to earn a conference title repeat.

Madison Edgewood’s players will walk to each tee shot with the advantage of experience — and 17th-year coach Peggy Gierhart hopes they walk away from their tee shots with another advantage. “This is the longest team I have ever had, as far as distance off the tee,” Gierhart said. “But we all know it’s the short game that gets the ‘W.’” Four players from last year’s team return in Grace Welch, Anaka LeskeGrace Jaeger and Caitlyn Hegenbarth, joined by hopefuls Allyssa Thao (sophomore), Elise Burkhartzmeyer (senior) and Sarah Nekada (freshman).

Milton lost standout Taylor Hakala to graduation, and junior Grace Weiss’ family has moved to Minnesota. Still, coach Brady Farnsworth’s lineup includes seniors Claudia Seeman (all-state honorable mention last year, 41.69-stroke average) and Desi Dorcey (53.13 average), juniors Callie Hakala (49.24 average) and Reagan Moisson (48.81 average), and enough depth to create a battle for the No. 5 slot. Seeman shot 76 to win the Badger South Conference individual title. Milton freshman Hannah Dunk finished in the top 10 in seven of her 11 Wisconsin PGA Junior events over the summer and is expected to be a breakout player.

Oregon took fourth in the Badger South last year, and juniors Alyssa Schmidt and Sam McKee return lead the Panthers’ lineup. “We will have a lot of inexperienced varsity players; how well the adapt to the higher competitive level of play will impact any success this year’s team will achieve,” coach Eric Instefjord said. Development of younger players, including a large freshman class, will be key to the program’s future course.

Stoughton just missed a team state berth last year, taking third in its sectional after winning the Badger South by three strokes over Milton. Only two players from that team return, but they are both standouts: Second cousins Myranda Kotlowski (last year’s Badger South runner-up) and Caylie Kotlowski (fourth at Division 1 state last year). Myranda has had the upper hand in early competitions, as coach Stephen Stokes said “Caylie had a great season last year and Myranda really played well this summer.”

Watertown returns only two top-five players from last year’s team, but coach Mike Wietor still hopes the Goslings have the talent and depth to move into the top four of the conference and send multiple players to sectionals. Senior Andrea Tietz will hold down the No. 1 spot, followed by seniors Evelyn Marchant and Marni Wickert.

Monona Grove must deal with the graduation loss of Klairissa O’Reilly-Dye, now at UW-Stout, but will be led by returnees Ashley Gabrielse and Emma Goke, with support from Alex Hayes and Bri McCoskey.

Fort Atkinson coach Joe Leibman’s team is in rebuilding mode. Sophomore Natalie Kammer has led the way in early matches.

BIG EIGHT

Outlook: Middleton, as usual, is the heavy favorite by consensus of conference coaches. There is some disagreement, though, among which teams might be top challengers. In the mix (mentioned as top-three picks by coaches) are Verona, Madison Memorial, Sun Prairie, Janesville Craig and Madison West.

Middleton has a wealth of talent and experience and is not only an odds-on favorite in the conference, but a likely challenger for the WIAA Division 1 state title after last year's runner-up finish. The leader is senior Kate Meier (fifth at state last year), Makenzie Hodson is the other returning senior and junior Glenna Sanderson took 15th at state last year. Ellie Frisch, Milanne Dahmen and Karlye Kriewaldt each are ranked among the state’s top 15 sophomores by Wisconsin,golf.

Sun Prairie coach Shana Tiltrum has a deep team with room to grow as the season goes on. The leader should be Sydney O’Hearn, who tied for first in the Cardinals’ season-opening Big Eight Conference triangular this week. Other contributors should include Grace Holmes, Natalie Tiltrum and freshman Sophia Royle.

Verona’s new coach, former University of Wisconsin standout Gabby Curtis, enters the Big Eight fray with two top returnees from last year’s league runner-up team. Senior Andrea Schleeper and junior Caitlyn Ott just missed qualifying for sectionals last year by one and two shots, respectively. Schleeper was 10th in the Big Eight tournament last year, and Ott is ranked among the state’s top 40 seniors by Wisconsin.golf.

Madison Memorial coach Brittany McNett-Emmerich, a former Big Eight individual champion and three-time state qualifier at Madison West, is in her third year as Memorial’s coach and is predicting a rise in the Spartans’ fortunes. “I see us moving into the top couple spots in the conference race,” McNett-Emmerich said. ‘It will be the best team we have had in the last couple of seasons. The No. 1 spot was won by junior Ana Kielley, followed by juniors Bridget McCarthy and Jill Newman and sophomore Natalie Rauwolf. “(Kielley and McCarthy) have worked hard on their games, and they are seeing improvements,” the coach said.

Madison La Follette coach Nancy Seymour says the program has only six players, but three are returning varsity letterwinners. “We are trying hard to recruit, especially the freshmen,” Seymour said. The leader should be sophomore Angelina Myhr, a sectional qualifier last year. Juniors Kylie Chandler and Emma Kennedy return, and sophomore Kayna Griffin will contribute.

Janesville Craig hopes to improve on last year’s seventh-place league finish, and has the ingredients to do just that. Four of last year’s top five return, led by junior Kallie Lux, a two-time team Most Valuable Player whom coach Alex Schaar called “one of (the) most accomplished golfers in program history.” Also back is senior Sara Nerad, “the foundation of our team the past two seasons,” Schaar said. Both are ranked among the state’s top players by Wisconsin.golf. Also back are sophomore Lauren Dammen and junior Morgan Knilans. “This is the first year since 2016 that a majority of our team will be upperclassmen,” the coach said.

ROCK VALLEY

Outlook: Jefferson is picked to unseat two-time defending conference champ Edgerton in this year’s race, with Lakeside Lutheran predicted for would be a fourth consecutive third-place finish. However, Cambridge has won the first two league mini-meets and is out to upset the whole apple cart.

Cambridge coach Rob Pero expects a big year from his Blue Jays, with five letterwinners back and depth from 10 former junior varsity players. “We plan to contend for a conference championship this year,” he said. Looking for a breakout individual season will be senior Aubrie Pero (51.0 average per nine holes last year), with support from senior Mary Hommen, senior Hailee Sundquist (who did not play last year), and sophomore Lissy Pero.

Edgerton missed out on a state berth in a sectional playoff last year, and new coach Mike Schmidt says his team faces a rebuilding year despite the return of three regulars. “I think we should still compete for the top of the conference but will need to show improvement along the way,” Schmidt said. Low numbers in the program may press players into varsity action before their time. Back are seniors Alexis Deavers and Tiana Johnson and junior Ale Bittner. Top freshmen are Olivia Guertin and Ava Daibek.

Lakeside Lutheran has perhaps the conference’s best player in junior Maya Heckmann. Coach Kyra Lostetter’s top four players all are underclassmen, with Heckmann joined by junior Grace Thomas, sophomores Kaylea Affeld and Lauren Lostetter and freshman Ava Heckmann.

McFarland lost two-time sectional qualifier Nikki Stubbe to graduation, but returns seniors Emily Gates and Carson Eccles in the top two spots. Gates suffered a knee injury playing soccer during the Spartans’ sectional final game last spring, and decided to postpone surgery until after her senior golf season. As a result, she’ll miss her senior year of soccer.

Bucky!

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