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updated: 8/23/2013 9:14 PM

Newcomers could emerge early

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  • St. Charles East's Darby Crane, above, and St. Charles North's Jessica Grill, below, are two of the area's top returning players.

      St. Charles East's Darby Crane, above, and St. Charles North's Jessica Grill, below, are two of the area's top returning players.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer

    Rick West | Staff Photographer

By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent

The status quo has been turned upside down for the local Class AA girls golf teams as the season commenced earlier this week.

For the first time in recent memory, there are no returning state qualifiers in the fold this fall.

But there are links to the past, particularly when it comes to rich bloodlines, for some area players.

St. Charles North, based on its more-than-respectable 330 team score at the Conant Early Bird Tournament on Monday, appears to be the class of the local girls programs.

The North Stars bid adieu to their three-time state qualifier and multiple Upstate Eight Conference champion Ariana Furrie.

But coach Chris Patrick has reloaded as Gianna Furrie begins the season as the North Stars' top-ranked player.

The Furrie sibling is supplemented by two other incoming players: classmate Kate Lillie and senior transfer Carly Hudon, who played on the Sycamore boys team the last three years.

The North Stars have not qualified for the state tournament as a team since the event was held south of Carbondale in 2005.

"I think we have a chance to qualify for the state tournament," Patrick said. "We're very optimistic. We lost two very good seniors in Ariana and Jordyn (McFarlane), but we replaced them with three outstanding newcomers."

The fourth score is often the ultimate arbiter in girls golf, but Patrick is convinced depth and balance will carry the day for the North Stars this season.

"I feel like we 're a lot deeper with girls who can shoot in the low 40s (from the bottom of the lineup)," Patrick said. "We have three girls (Furie, Lillie and Hudon) was can consistently shoot in the 30s."

Jessica Grill and Gabriella Spinazze return for another varsity season; Patrick plans to rotate Sam Scroggin, Alina O'Donnell and Morgan Snook as the sixth player in major tournaments.

It has been nearly a quarter-century since Rod Osborne has constructed a team of such youth.

Darby Crane, a returning sectional qualifier, is the lone mainstay as the St. Charles East hall of fame coach has five underclassmen, including three freshmen, manning starting positions to begin the season.

"It's the first time since 1990," Osborne said. "A few years ago, I didn't have any freshmen come out. That's why I don't have any juniors on the team. I just want to see a few of the little things that will lead to improvement down the road."

Girls golf does not have divisional distinctions in the Upstate Eight; Batavia and Geneva, entering their fourth year in the conference, are looking to improve their returns from last year.

"I do feel that we'll be more competitive than we were last year," said Batavia coach Morgan Connell, who returns sectional qualifier Lauren Anderson and Rebecca Hasemann as her top players. "I have a good feeling about this season. Last year we were young and restless. We're going to be much better this year."

Nicole Hassells and Megan Rush are the leaders for Geneva.

"We have some girls who have played varsity golf for a couple years now as underclassmen," Geneva coach Eric Hatczel said. "The (rest of the) team will lean on them to shape the younger players. Last year our JV team was very strong. We look (for those players) to continue to develop their games and contribute to the varsity squad this year."

The Upstate Eight Conference features two of the top female players in the state in Waubonsie Valley junior Bing Singhsumalee and Neuqua Valley sophomore Jessica Yuen.

The former shot an almost-unheard-of 8-under 64 to win the West Aurora regional last year, and Yuen was state runner-up at the rain-shortened state tournament.

The three Aurora schools are seeking greater legitimacy this season as well.

West Aurora returns to two sectional qualifiers in Jordan Lange and MacKenzie Fabrizius.

Numbers are never an issue for coach Chris Soulsby, who can draw from almost two dozen candidates to field his staring lineup.

Naperville North, which captured two 18-hole tournaments to start this week, is the favorite in the DuPage Valley Conference.

But Soulsby thinks his Blackhawks can cause some ripples in the league.

"We have two very solid players in Jordan and MacKenzie," Soulsby said.

Rosary has the distinction of being the only local school with a returning state qualifier.

Victoria Phipps participated in the Class A state tournament last fall.

"(Phipps) worked really hard over the summer," first-year Rosary coach Joe Hughes said. "I see no reason why she cannot make it back to state."

Retired East Aurora athletic director Cliff Pensyl fields a full team at Aurora Central Catholic this fall.

"We hope to keep having improvement, have fun and maintain a team spirit," Pensyl said. "I would expect we're going to have some (nine-hole) scores in the 40s. Amber (Weaver) and Jordyn (Sundberg) will be real close in ability."

The Suburban Christian Conference does not have a girls golf leaguer per se, but St. Francis will frame its season around Geneva residents Caroline Bland, a transfer from suburban Philadelphia, and Caroline Pins.

Elise Douglas is a member for the boys team at IMSA.

The senior came as close to possible of making the state grade last year in Class A.

"She missed qualifying for state by one stoke," IMSA coach Michael Keyton said.

Kaneland is another local school without a girls program, and Tori Guyton has the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of her older sister, Hayley, one of the most decorated local female golfers in recent history.

The elder Guyton, currently a junior on the women's team at Illinois State, was not only a one-time state runner-up but also the top-ranked golfer -- regardless of gender -- at Kaneland her final two years.

"It's been hard," said Tori Guyton, a two-time sectional qualifier, of the expectations. "I have to do even better than I did the first two years. My dad (John, a golf professional) and I have been working on my swing."

Guyton and Julia VanGemert will represent Kaneland in the girls state series.

"We're hoping to get them into some tournaments during the regular season," Kaneland boys coach Mark Meyer said of Knights' duo.

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