Considering what he has back, Roseburg High girls golf coach Kevin Hunt believes it’s reasonable to hope for a better finish at the Class 6A State Championships than last season.
He also knows that would put the Indians in some historic RHS company.
In Hunt’s third year, however, the Indians have plenty of reasons to shoot high, the foremost being four returning golfers who helped them to a sixth-place team finish in their 12th appearance at state last season.
“That was an important experience for the girls to have, especially with them being so young and being at state for the first time,” Hunt said. “We have a long way to go right now, just like every team this time of year, but that’s something we can eventually build on.”
They have a strong foundation in junior Kiana Cash and sophomore Clare Dittemore, who were so often a strong 1-2 punch atop the leaderboards — at the Southwest Conference tournament they finished fifth and sixth, respectively — and will be counted on to anchor the team again.
Senior Alexis Horn and junior Kayla Epperly also bring back state experience and flashed the ability to consistently turn in rounds in the 90s. After losing standout Ashlynn Persing, that consistency is exactly what will be needed from them.
“We have all those pieces back, but Ashlynn isn’t easy to replace,” Hunt said. “The other girls are going to have to step up as a collective team to make up the strokes that we’re missing.”
Hunt has four others he hopes can help with that: senior Emily Ott, sophomore Peyton Price, and freshmen Kathleen DeLaCruz and Cassie Nichols.
That depth, which eluded the Indians in Hunt’s first two years, has forced them to qualify for tournaments at practice, creating daily competition that hasn’t been there before.
“That’s a little foreign to them, but I like it,” Hunt said. “They’ll compete and have to push each other a lot more often.”
The Indians have already won two tournaments — the Marshfield Invitational and the Eagle Point/Crater Invitational — as Cash fired an 85 at the first and Dittemore a 77 at the second.
Dittemore led the Indians with rounds of 18- and 13-over par last season at Trysting Tree Golf Club, home of the 6A tournament. After qualifying by placing second to Sheldon in the SWC, Roseburg fell just three strokes shy of fourth place, which would have matched its best finish at state in school history.
The Indians still have a lot of work ahead of them if they hope to catch Sheldon, which boasts the SWC’s defending individual champ in Haleigh Krause. According to Hunt, Krause has a freshman sister who will make the task even tougher.
The Indians’ three counting SWC tournaments. played in successive weeks, begin April 8 at Grants Pass Golf Club. Before that, the RHS boys and girls will host the Cascade Challenge Invitational on April 5 at the Roseburg Country Club.
• You can reach sports reporter Josh McDermott at 541-957-4219, or by email at email@example.com