Aurora Central Catholic
Coach: Mark Frantzen (second year)
Last season: third in the Metro Suburban West Conference; third place in the Class 2A Mendota regional; 12th at Grayslake Central sectional.
Top players: Zach Baker, sr.; Mac Cowen, jr.; Jack Gehrke, so.; Sean Grimm, jr.; John Melchiorre, sr.; Will Tack, jr.
Outlook: Aurora Central Catholic will more than likely travel as far as Cowen, the Chargers' lone person to advance out of the Grayslake Central sectional, can carry them. "He has a lot of potential, especially for someone who went downstate as a sophomore," said Frantzen. "I am really looking for him to do a little bit of a repeat. I am also looking for him to be in the top five in our 18-hole matches." Gehrke, Grimm, Melchiorre and Tack also return with sectional experience. But the quartet must discover a way to narrow the considerable gap in its average scores.
Coach: Mark Dwyer (first year)
Last season: no conference tournament; runner-up Class 1A Immaculate Conception Catholic Prep regional; runner-up Seneca sectional; eighth in state.
Top players: Matt Buhrt, jr.; Jack Corcoran, jr.; Nick Geen, so.; Devin Johnson, jr.; Chase Lietz, jr.; Brett Seward, jr.
Outlook: Aurora Christian had a breakthrough year last fall, earning its first trip to the team state tournament in school history. Dwyer takes over the program, which boasts five returning state veterans. Sewell and Johnson enter the season as the unquestioned players to watch for Aurora Christian. "Brett and Devin are really solid," Dwyer said. "They will be battling to lead our team all year." Corcoran is the lone starter to begin the season for Aurora Christian not on the state roster from a year ago. Aurora Christian will also face considerably more opponents in its size range after departing the remnants of the Suburban Christian to enter the Northeastern Athletic Conference. "I would expect us to do even better than we did last year," Dwyer said. "I definitely expect another trip to state."
Coach: Tim DeBruycker (10th year)
Last season: fourth in the Upstate Eight River; Class 3A Oswego regional champion; 12th at the Hinsdale Central sectional.
Top players: Robert Carr, jr.; Sam Glore, jr.; Cameron Marbach, jr., Michael Morrison, sr.; Andrew Nelson, sr.; Nick Robinson, sr.
Outlook: After an inconsistent regular season, Batavia stunned the field at the Oswego regional to win its first postseason title in well more than a generation. The margin for error at the Hinsdale Central sectional was virtually nonexistent, but Nelson survived the maelstrom of low scores to make the state cut in Bloomington. Robinson and Morrison also participated in the minefield-laden sectional. "Those three are there to lead the team day in and day out," DeBruycker said of his three senior standouts. "Nick Robinson has been playing well all summer. My expectations are to try and compete for the conference championship." Marbach enters the season in the fourth slot after transferring from Waubonsie Valley. The Bulldogs' junior class could be the difference this fall. "I have five juniors who could be in that (No.) 5, 6 position," DeBruycker said.
Coach: Eric Hatczel (second year; 11th overall)
Last season: second in the Upstate Eight River; runner-up in the Class 3A Geneva regional; 10th at the Lake Forest sectional.
Top players: Andrew Abel, jr.; Ethan Dalton, sr.; Tyler Isenhart, fr.; Jack McDonald, fr.; Spencer Monroe, jr.
Outlook: After nine years as the girls coach at Geneva, Hatczel is settling in as the successor to longtime coach Bill Koehn in his second year. The Vikings will frame their squad around Abel, Dalton and Monroe, all of whom advanced out of the regional last year. "There's a large talent pool that I think we have," Hatczel said. "When we figure out our best lineup moving forward, it's a matter of putting the puzzle pieces together in the right order." Geneva is always a major factor during the regular season in the Upstate Eight River; the Vikings have an astounding home record in dual matches at Mill Creek over the last decade-plus. "They know the bounces and the quirks," Hatczel said of his players' intimate knowledge of the course. "I think we'll be a very strong team in the conference."
Coach: Mark Meyer (11th year)
Last season: third in the Northern Illinois Big XII East; fourth at the Class 2A Mendota sectional.
Top players: Brett Glennon, jr.; Kevin Healy, sr.; Jake Hedill, jr.; Will Marshall, fr.; Jeff Van Gemmert, jr.; Brock Williams, jr.
Outlook: Kaneland had a peculiar postseason last year when five players advanced to the Grayslake Central sectional as at-large individuals. Hedill, VanGammert and Glennon all return from the final state preliminary for their junior seasons. "We are a little on the younger side," Meyer said. Marshall holds the distinction of being one of only two freshman starters on any of the local programs this year. But Meyer will rely heavily on his junior class, especially the top-rated Hedill. "I think we are going to have a strong team," Meyer said. "(Hedill) is a workhorse. He practices all the time. We expect him to be in the No. 1 spot the whole year." Meyer is hopeful the collective work ethic of his team members will pay dividends during the critical stretches of the season. "They all worked pretty hard over the summer," Meyer said.
Coach: Doug Roberts (sixth year)
Last season: no conference affiliation; runner-up at Class 3A Oswego sectional; sixth at the Hinsdale Central sectional.
Top players: Johnny Callahan, sr.; Jackson Clark, sr.; Jerod Hirner, sr.; Luke Hoss, sr.; Nicholas Huggins, jr.; Jimmy Morton, so.
Outlook: It was a bittersweet postseason for Marmion last year. After dropping the Oswego regional championship to Batavia by a stroke, the Cadets shot 301 at the Hinsdale Central sectional. But the Cadets had to join Benet and Wheaton Warrenville South on the sidelines at the state meet as West suburban Silver powers Hinsdale Central, Lyons and York advanced to Bloomington. Clark, Huggins and Hoss return for a final season after single state appearances, respectively, the last two years. "Jackson is playing the best he has ever played," Roberts said. "I knew (three years ago) that we had a special group (of freshmen)," Roberts said of his current seniors. "I thought we could make a run to state their senior year." The Cadets will also have to overcome a most unusual twin development. "We don't have a home course," Roberts said. Nor will the squad have a single dual match in the Chicago Catholic League. "I don't know if (the other league schools) don't want to play us -- or what," Roberts said.
St. Charles East
Coach: John Stock (16th year)
Last year: Upstate Eight River champion; third at the Class 3A Geneva regional; third at the Lake Forest sectional; 11th in state.
Top players: Mike Bertke, jr.; Danny Beutow, so.; Chris Black, jr.; Daniel Haugen, sr.; Connor King, so.; Alex McDonald, so.; Kevin Sobieski, sr.
Outlook: The Saints were nothing if not consistent last year in recording their seventh conference championship and sixth state appearance since the district built a second high school at the turn of the century. "Last year we had a great year. We were top three in nine tournaments and got the team to state," Stock said. "We look forward to this year." Haugen and Bertke are the Saints' two returning state veterans. Stock will look for the duo to provide leadership to his talented triumvirate of underclassmen. "We're a young team," Stock said. "We have three sophomores in the top six." St. Charles East is historically strong at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club; the venerable West Chicago layout will host both the conference and sectional tournaments. Of the Saints' sophomores, Beutow is the one most likely to make an immediate impact from the second slot to start the year for St. Charles East. Stock has no illusions as the season gathers momentum in coming weeks. "If you look at the IJGA (summer tournament) scores, there's a lot good golf around here."
St. Charles North
Coach: Rob Prentiss (16th year, 33rd overall)
Last year: third in the Upstate Eight River; fifth at the Class 3A Geneva regional.
Top players: Tyler Barton, jr.; Nikolai Janchik, so.; Trevor Kurtzhals, sr.; Jake Muehschlegal, jr.; Liam Smith, sr.; Michael Staszcuk, jr.
Outlook: The dean of area golf coaches, Prentiss has an interesting dynamic to start the season. "We don't get to a senior (starter) until No. 5 (in the lineup)," Prentiss said of Barton, Staszcuk, Muehschlegal and Staszcuk occupying the first four slots. "I have two juniors (Muehlschlegal and Staszcuk) who were sectional qualifiers last year." The nature of the condensed regular season is such that critical dual meets are scheduled very early in the season. The North Stars draw St. Charles East as part of a highly anticipated crossover triangular at home at Bowes Creek on Wednesday. St. Charles North was behind the eight-ball early last year after being on the wrong end against the Saints and Geneva. But Prentiss is confident his players will rise to the occasion this fall in league play. The North Stars have yet to capture a divisional title since the Upstate Eight split upon the arrival of Batavia and Geneva in the fall of 2010. "(Our team) is a nice mix of veterans and new players," Prentiss said.
Coach: Jay Bauer (23rd year)
Last season: sixth in the Upstate Eight Valley; sixth at the Class 3A Oswego sectional.
Top players: Zach Butcher, sr.; Dean Lavery, sr.; Sam Lawless, sr.; Nick Mishos, jr.; Kerry Taylor, sr.; Ryan Vanderway, fr.
Outlook: Bauer can certainly testify to the difficulty of making postseason runs in the sport out of the western suburbs. After nearly a quarter-century at the helm, Bauer has had but one regional championship team and three individual state qualifiers. But Bauer is optimistic an infusion of bodies into the program could be the difference this year, especially with traditional powers Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley joining the DuPage Valley. "We're as good as the other teams in our division," Bauer said of Valley holdovers East Aurora, Glenbard East, South Elgin, Bartlett and new member West Chicago. Bauer is confident depth and consistency could turn the Blackhawks' fortunes this fall. In addition to his starting six, Bauer can make lineup adjustments with Aaron Medlin, Cody Wyeth, Brett Kauffman, Myles Whiting, Taylor Evans, Hunter Voss or Tyler Millen. "I really don't know what four guys are going to score," Bauer said. "I think we'll be competitive." Taylor and third-year starter Lavery anchor West Aurora.