Top area teams: Marmion, St. Charles East, Kaneland, Batavia, St. Charles North, Geneva, West Aurora, Aurora Central Catholic, Aurora Christian, IMSA.
Projected starters: Aurora Central Catholic: Justin Prince, jr., Sean Harreld, jr., Dan Miller, jr., Pat Marcoux, sr., Travis Exline, sr., Brian Hinterlong, sr.; Aurora Christian: No information available; Batavia: Nathan Podraza, sr., Jon Huasta, jr., Bill Zwick, sr., Taylor Brandt, sr., Peter Rudd, sr., Jacob Piechota, jr.; Geneva: Colin Lillibridge, sr., Pat Cuscaden, sr., Nate Desens, jr., Alex Schreiber, jr., Brett Hassels, jr., Dan Cisco, jr.; IMSA: Luke Zhan, jr., Vivek Koganti, sr., Sun Kim, jr., Elise Douglas, jr.; Kaneland: Luke Kreiter, sr., Matt Yonkovich, jr., Brody Kuhar, jr., Connor Williams, sr., Sean Glennon, sr., Stephen Cannell, jr.; Marmion: Joe Fritz, jr., Brett Koskinen, sr., Liam Creamer, sr., Ricky Angsten, jr., J.R. Fredstrom, jr., Luke Hoss, fr.; St. Charles East: Max Kelly, sr., Brad Riva, jr., Mick Vyzral, soph.; St. Charles North: Dan Shepherd, sr., Raghav Cherala, jr., Matt Samuelson, jr., Jason McAleese, sr., Ryan DalDegan, sr., Santino Salamone, jr.; West Aurora: Brendon Chavez, sr., Blake Kauffman, sr., Jonathan Hunecke, sr., Jackson Bailey, jr., Ottavio Dattolo, sr., Kyle Reimers, jr., Daniel Newsome, jr., Chris Abell, jr., Daniel Waters, jr., Daniel Waters, jr., Steven Heiss, jr., Trent Jackson, jr., Conor Fitzgerald, jr.
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Outlook: For the first time in recent memory, the boys golf season is under way without a single local returning state qualifier from the large-school finals.
Bill Gregory, the lone representative from the 2011 Class 3A state tournament, graduated from Geneva last spring. But the first week of the season has already produced compelling storylines.
Marmion had the most unusual distinction of placing higher in the Class 2A state finals -- second -- than its third-place finish in the Suburban Christian Conference. The Cadets, which has its enrollment doubled and then subjected to the multiplier as a single-gender, parochial school, is now in the large-school division.
Marmion showed no ill-effects on Thursday at the Geneva Invitational by dominating the tournament with a 288 score.
"Eleven of the 12 scores were in the red (39 or lower)," Marmion coach Doug Roberts said of his six players two nine-hole scores at Mill Creek.
Much will be expected of senior leaders Koskinen and Creamer to replace the considerable talents of Dayton freshman Matt Fazio. Creamer plays with a take-no-prisoners approach, using pinpoint play to influence his overall game.
"I try to hit all of my approach shots close," Creamer said after his third-place finish at Geneva on Thursday. "We have another deep squad."
Hoss could very well be an ace in the hole for the Cadets this fall. The freshman had the lowest nine-hole score -- a 2-under 34 on the front nine -- among the Marmion players on Thursday, only to see his round unravel on the back.
The Cadets' depth was remarkable on a day in which the wind came up midway through the round as all six players finished 78 or better.
The Geneva tournament also served as a precursor for the many looming battles between the four Upstate Eight Conference River schools.
Batavia earned temporary bragging rights with its runner-up 300 total to best the host Vikings and the two St. Charles schools. But Batavia coach Tim DeBruycker knows one day does not make a season.
"I still think St. Charles East is the team to beat," said DeBruycker of the two-time defending champion Saints, who had a split squad at Mill Creek.
The Saints have won four consecutive regional titles as well, but coach John Stock does not give any brownie points for past success. The Saints' 12 varsity members have to earn their starting positions through tryouts and the early portion of the schedule.
"We have had three dates so far: Kelly, Riva and Vyzral are our three certainties," Stock said of his three other starting slots that Jacob Bertke, Luke Milloy, Keone Derain, Conor McAdam, Kyle Jacobs, Connor Dieckman, Jimmy Liss and Jake Regelbrugge are vying to secure.
"I'm waiting for someone else to step up and say, 'Hey, it's me.' We have five dates in the next week and a half (to determine the starting lineup for the conference season)."
Geneva and St. Charles North also advanced to the Bartlett team sectional a year ago. Cherala is making a major move to supplant Shepherd as the North Stars' top gun.
"Our top two players are very strong," St. Charles North coach Rob Prentiss said. "Raghav Cherala was the Upstate Eight River Division player of the year as a sophomore. Dan Shepherd had an outstanding summer."
Prentiss knows his first-year varsity members could make or break the team this fall.
"We have a lot of kids in the junior class trying to make the move to varsity," he said.
Geneva and Batavia have varsity stalwarts Lillibridge and Podraza to authenticate their case for league inclusion.
"We're going to lock horns (with our local rivals) all season long," DeBruycker said. "As long as we have no more than one loss (in conference dual meets), I'll be happy. If you only have one loss you can still win the conference tournament no matter what (and take the overall title)."
Veteran Geneva coach Bill Koehn, who retired from the classroom last spring, is waiting for his squad to get into school year mode.
"I don't think my kids were ready to go," he said after a sixth-place finish at his home tournament.
Koehn admitted that Batavia at Fox Valley could be the sternest challenge for his squad in the league gauntlet.
"Nobody beats Batavia there," he said. "You have to take care of your home matches."
Kaneland could very well supplant the heroics of Milo French (Class AA runner-up in 2002) and Hayley Guyton (second in girls Class AA tournament in 2009) with its torrid start to the season
The Knights have serious designs on a state run in the middle-tier division after hovering around 300 in back-to-back starts at Geneva and Bartonville Limestone.
"I'm really proud of the way that some of our top guys have played," Meyer said after the Knights recorded the lowest score (304) of his career on Thursday at Mill Creek. "They have gotten to the point where they expect to shoot low scores."
Yonkovich narrowly missed the state cut last year as a sophomore, while Kreiter occupies the top run based on his tryout scores.
Like its city rival Marmion, Aurora Central has also moved up to Class 2A after winning their single-A regional last year. Harreld and Prince are the mainstays for the Chargers.
"We're not going to be favored anywhere, I don't think," ACC coach Jim Parker said. "I expect some individuals to play very well (throughout the season, regardless of class). We're going to do our best (in the Class 2A state series)."
West Aurora coach Jay Bauer is cautiously optimistic his charges are much less green than last fall in the ever-rugged DuPage Valley Conference.
"I don't have a Raymond Knoll," Bauer said of the state junior amateur champion from Naperville North. "Last year was a big unknown. I was very apprehensive this time a year ago. This year at least we have some experience."
The Blackhawks' five senior starters received battlefield training last year as Bauer hopes to advance at least one player to the sectional out of arguably the toughest regional in the state.
"It's an injustice," Naperville Central coach Barry Baldwin said of the way the seven Aurora and Naperville public high schools are routinely placed in the same regional.
IMSA coach Michael Keyton will not truly know the character of his team until school convenes this week.
"We should be very competitive, but we need someone to cover (our four returning players)," said Keyton, who thinks Anderson is capable of mounting a series run as an individual in the girls Class AA state tournament.
Key dates: Aug. 20: Palatine Invitational; Aug. 20: DeKalb Invitational; Aug. 27: Biltmore Classic; Aug. 28: Geneva at Batavia; Sept. 1: Fenton Invitational; Sept. 1: St. Viator Invitational; Sept. 8: Batavia Invitational; Sept. 12: Aurora City Tournament; Sept. 15: Wheeling Classic; Sept. 17: St. Charles East-Benet-Hinsdale Central-Naperville North quadrangular; Sept. 19: St. Charles East-St. Charles North (at Waubonsie Valley); Sept. 22: Hinsdale Central Invitational; week of Sept. 24: Conference championships; Sept. 29: Lake Park Invitational.
Predicted state champions: Class 1A: North Country Day; Class 2A: Belleville Altholf Catholic; Class 3A: Lyons Township.