Scouting the Fox and DuPage County girls golf season

A year ago, Audrey Wake made a big impact in her first season at Benet.

The sophomore is looking to continue her stellar rise with another memorable showing. The Redwings, who finished third in the East Suburban Catholic Conference in 2021, also welcome junior Jenna Shilts for the first time into the program.

Wake had one of the best openings for a career, when she carded a hole-in-one in her first nine-hole match in a Benet uniform.

"We plan to be very competitive in the conference this year," Benet coach Mike Bremner said. "We hope to compete for a conference title."

Hinsdale Central is among the top teams in the area - again. Led by coach Nick Latorre, the Red Devils return senior Sarah Thornton and junior Caroline Owens to go with Elyssa Abdulah and Toral Bhatt after finishing first in the West Suburban Silver and earning regional and sectional championships last season.

"We have significant experience returning and are hoping to play at a consistently high level throughout the season," Latorre said.

Seniors Sarah Sanek, Erica Lei and Annie Wittwer are slated to be the top golfers for Naperville North this fall.

"The key to our season is going to be consistency," Naperville North coach Greta Williams said. "The girls can shoot competitive scores, but we will have to work on the consistency of those scores and our short game to be able to compete with the top teams in the area."

Neuqua Valley coach John Keller is all smiles due to the return of his top three players, led by juniors Rebecca Wu, Sophie Lagman and Madison Coffey. The Wildcats made big strides last season, winning the DuPage Valley Conference tournament, a regional title, placing second in sectionals and qualifying for the state tournament for just the second time in 20 years - finishing ninth.

"We should have a strong team this year," Keller said. "Our top three all have varsity experience and continue to work on their games to get even better."

Metea Valley is coming off a memorable showing in 2021. Seniors Abby Terada and Macey Martin plus junior Pranvi Kakkar are the Mustangs' top players.

"I have high expectations for the team this year based on last year," Metea Valley coach Brad Lange said. "I expect us to finish first or second in conference, and hopefully get our team and individuals to state."

Lake Park senior Madison Place, an all-DuKane Conference performer, is back for her final season. Junior Marisa Lerario, another all-conference returnee, helps give the Lancers a solid duo to go with talented senior Reagan Henkel.

"We're looking to be in contention for the conference title," Lake Park coach Jeff Henrikson said. "Our team goal is to win a regional title and get the team to qualify for the state tournament."

Glenbard West lost a ton of experience and talent, but the cupboard isn't empty thanks to the return of seniors Anna Meinhart and juniors Kaavya Mamgain and Aubrey Sawyer.

"We're looking for the leadership of Anna and Aubrey to help the younger players that will join them this fall," Glenbard West coach Mary McGrane said. "I'm excited to see what this young team can accomplish together."

Downers Grove North is full of experience, with seniors Ruby Bartowiak, Emily Smetana, Ashley Mall and juniors Shannon Bell and Allie Steiner leading the way for a team with high hopes after a solid 2021 season.

Addison Trail is filled with youth and promise, according to coach Stacey Puccini. The Blazers have a good blend of youth and experience, with seniors Joslynn Elakkat and Mia Saldana the most experienced returnees.

Willowbrook seniors Mickey Martens and Maddie Aderholt are the headline returnees on a team looking to make some noise in the West Suburban Gold.

Wheaton Warrenville South junior Grace Cavin, a sectional qualifier in 2021, is back to lead a talented cast that includes senior Abby Trinkl, sophomore Claire Snider and junior Chloe Korb plus sophomore Abby Olsen and junior Peyton Johanson.

"We're hoping to be much more competitive this season in the DuKane Conference," Wheaton Warrenville South coach Arthur Tang said.

Wheaton North's Bridget Craig is among the top golfers in the area following a top 30 showing at state last season.

"We're bringing back all but one of our varsity players from last season," Wheaton North coach Karen Calabrese said. "Bridget will be our workhorse, but after that, we should be able to get a good score from any one of our other seven varsity players. Lizzie Elftmann, Lucy Rutgens and Zoey Bohmer were with us at regionals last year but Ruth Ahern, Maggie Lange and Abby Lucas were right on their tails. My expectations for this group are fairly high."

Batavia is not short on experience with junior Amanda Naylor leading an upperclassmen driven team. Lauren Sudler, Brooke Besic and Mya Henderson round out a talented group of juniors.

"We will surprise some teams this year I think," Batavia coach Tim Kauffmann said. "My expectation is to win conference. We will be able to compete this year."

Returning players: bring strength and power off the tee.

Juniors Ally Ward and Reagan Krohe and sophomore Abby Johnson Currie return at Geneva. Vikings coach Julia Callahan also is excited about newcomers Olivia Rawls (jr.), Joanna Brylka (fr.) and Paige Flanigan (fr.).

"We have a handful of returning players and many new to the sport or competition level," Callahan said. "There is a lot of opportunity for growth with our competitive conference. This should be a close-knit group of players both on the course and off, already having their share of laughs. They are supportive of each other and do what they can to show good sportsmanship to their own team and competitors."

St. Charles East senior Emily Charles is the No. 1 golfer for the Saints this fall.

"Emily is a very consistent golfer and went low several rounds last year," St. Charles East coach Jarod Gutesha said. "The rest of the varsity graduated last year, so we will be looking for some younger players to step into their roles."

South Elgin senior Ila Fontaine and juniors Bella Hazelhorst, Sam Baran and Sheridan York are looking to win conference again this season.

"Ila is looking to finish off her golf career with a bang, while my three juniors are trying to break averages from last year," South Elgin coach Tanner Gardon said.

Hampshire is led by seniors Lily Farnam and Reagan Green, with sophomores Jaina Farnam and Kaylee Seo part of the mix.

"Almost everyone returns this year, and we've continued to add golfers each season," Hampshire coach Eric Samuelson said. "We hope to be playing meaningful golf as the season moves along."

St. Edward is down to two players, with senior Ivy Burnett and sophomore Addison Gillie forming the team.

"Ivy lost by a stroke in the playoffs to go down to state last year, so her goal is to make that trip to Decatur at the end of the season," St. Edward coach Paul Netzel said.

Dundee-Crown's top golfers entering the season are junior Magen Laas, senior Lydia Rodriguez, junior Katy Mensching and sophomore Sophie Morawski.

"We're looking for a strong season from Magen Laas after her first all-conference honors last season," Dundee-Crown coach Emma Ageneau said. "We're returning a lot of key players to our team, and are looking forward to building on the success from last season."

Crystal Lake Central sophomore Delaney Medlyn is looking to add to her impressive start to her career. Medlyn, Ella Smith and Addison Cleary were all consistent golfers last season for CLC.

After several years of recent success, Aurora Central Catholic will not field a team due to having only two players, according to ACC coach Mark Schwartz.

Girls golf at a glance

Top players: Wheaton North's Bridget Craig, Lake Park's Madison Place, Hinsdale Central's Sarah Thornton, Hinsdale Central's Caroline Owens

Key dates: Regionals Sept. 26-28; Sectionals: Oct 3-4

2021 sectional champions: Stevenson, Hinsdale Central, New Trier O'Fallon (2A); St. Anthony, Chicago Latin, Rockford Boylan, Mt. Carmel (1A)

2021 state champions: Barrington (2A), Mt. Carmel (1A)

2022 state tournament: Oct 7-8 at Hickory Point Golf Course, Decatur (2A) and Red Tail Run Golf Course, Decatur (1A)

Erica Lei is part of a Naperville North squad with high expectations. Sandy Bressner/
  Lake Park's Madison Place earned all-DuKane Conference honors last season. Brian Hill/
Coach Tim Kauffmann has high hopes for Lauren Sudler, above, and the rest of his Batavia team. Sandy Bressner/
St. Charles East's Emily Charles is the most experienced returning golfer for an otherwise youthful Saints squad. Sandy Bressner/
South Elgin's Ila Fontaine returns for a Storm squad hoping to repeat as Upstate Eight Conference champions. Sandy Bressner/
Dundee-Crown's Magen Laas chips from the fairway to the fourteenth green in girls regional golf at the Bonnie Dundee Golf Club in Carpentersville on Wednesday. Daily Herald file photo
Hinsdale Central's Sarah Thornton tees off during the West Suburban Silver Conference meet at Broken Arrow Golf Club in Lockport on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Sandy Bressner/
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