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The first week of August marked the beginning of practice for Southern Illinois prep golf teams. Coaches and players head into the upcoming season with a lot of optimism, as they look to build off of their accomplishments from last season.

For coaches it’s about grooming the underclassmen and finding out what talent they have in their freshman. Every school loses seniors to graduation, but it’s never out of the realm of possibility for juniors, sophomores, or freshman to step up and lead their clubs.

Belleville Althoff Catholic girls’ team will lean on senior Jill Tye and junior Becca Zimmer after a transition year in 2018. The Crusaders also have two returning sophomores in Avery Pomrit and Katie Conley, as they look to take a step forward and compete in their conference.

“Both Pomrit and Conley have improved their tee shots and fairway shots,” said Crusaders coach Dennis Martinez. “We knew last year was a rebuilding year, but with the help of some of our seniors we were able to help mold some of the underclassmen, and we’ve seen tremendous improvements.”

For the boys, Trico returns their entire roster out of regionals from last season. Led by senior Edward Brees, the Pioneers will also return juniors Peyton Lovel, Daniel Vogt and Ross Coleman. Sophomore Logan Cleland will also make his return to the varsity team.

“We only have one senior on the team, but we should have a pretty good chance in advancing out of regionals and making it in sectionals,” said Trico coach Tyler Coleman. “Eddy just missed the cut last season so we’re expected big things out of him in his senior year.”

Brees missed out on the regionals by a few strokes last year after finishing with a score of 74. The senior participated in the 37th annual Bill Koeneman Memorial Players Cup last weekend and took home first place after finishing even-par in the 27-hole tournament.

“We play a tough schedule this season and going against conference teams like Carmi will always be a challenge with their good young golfers,” said Coleman. “We’re trying to get to their level from last season, but feel like we can compete with teams like Anna-Jonesboro and Nashville who have been out of our reach in previous years.”

Anna-Jonesboro will return varsity sophomore Luke Lasley this season and will have to rely on incoming freshman after losing seniors like Levi Hall.

“Our goal early on will be staying in the middle of the pack and not peaking too early in the season,” said Wildcats coach Brandon Bierstedt. “You never want to peak too early, but hopefully we can peak later on in the season around regionals and sectionals.”

While it’s still too early on to tell for some teams, exhibitions and practices will give coaches a clearer view of how their team stacks up against others. A lot can change throughout the course of the season and both coaches and players understand that.

“We’re hosting about 17-18 golfers from around the area on the 17th of August, so that’ll be a good chance for them to showcase their talents,” said Bierstedt.

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