Boys golf: Scouting Fox Valley
The Kaneland golfers will look for another early introduction to college life this fall.
The boys Class 2A state tournament is conducted on the Illinois State University home course. Played in the shadows of the Normal campus, five members of the Kaneland team will seek a repeat state experience in October.
An unanticipated snow storm reduced all three state tournaments last fall to a single day as the Knights finished seventh.
But the central storyline for Kaneland as the season commences in earnest this week is replacing four-year stalwart Will Marshall, who has taken his considerable skills to Big Ten country at Nebraska.
"It's going to be a hump we have to get over," Kaneland senior leader Bryce Stair said of the Knights' lone -- yet immense -- graduation loss. "We could always count on him."
But Mark Meyer, the Knights' coach, feels his current squad could be even deeper than a year ago.
"Even though we may not have a top-tier player like Will, we have some players close to that," Meyer said.
Ryan Milton is not burdened by the prospect of filling the top slot for the Knights this season.
"He is ready for that baton and be one of the better players in school history," Meyer said of overcoming the Marshall departure. "I think Ryan Milton has a good chance to fill those shoes."
"We are going to try and build off of last year," Milton said. "We still have the same expectations: do well at conference and get back to state."
Stair is equally realistic the unenviable task to replacing Marshall is not strictly limited to the golf course.
"I am more focused on being a role model and team leader," Stair said.
In addition to the Knights' other returning state veterans -- Cody Ganzon, Josh Pehl and Michael Partoll -- Meyer is intrigued by Hagan Rank, like Ganzon and Pehl, a promising sophomore.
Like many of his high-level peers, Milton enters the fall campaign not needing to jettison any off-season rust.
"I played a lot more summer tournaments this year," Milton said. "My game has become more mature. My iron play has been really solid lately."
Kaneland has attracted the attention of other local Class 2A programs in assembling its current squad for another potential state run.
"Our eyes are on them," Crystal Lake South coach Curt Wadlington, who directed the Gators to their first state berth in 15 years last October, said of the Knights.
Kaneland has never captured any state hardware in the sport.
"I think that would be putting the cart ahead of the horse," Meyer said when asked the possibility of Kaneland fashioning a top-three state finish this season. "We're still pretty young."
Wadlington, who returns four state veterans in his own right, is taking a cautious approach.
"We have to get out of our own pond first before we start thinking about state," Wadlington said. "I think expectations for the year are pretty high."
"Crystal Lake South has the best team in our area," said Jacobs coach Gary Conrad.
Kaneland will very well have to contend with the two Aurora Catholic schools in the postseason.
Marmion has been reclassified to the middle tier after competing at the Class 3A West Aurora regional. But Russ Huggins lost virtually his entire starting lineup to graduation.
"We're very young and inexperienced," Huggins said.
Aurora Central Catholic coach Mike Cowen -- with senior Nathan Turco in the vanguard -- believes his program is ready to take the next step.
Austin Miller is one of three triplets on the team for the Chargers.
The word "uncertainty" is uppermost on the minds of many of the local Class 3A coaches.
Had it not been for Geneva finishing runner-up to eventual seven-time state champion Hinsdale Central at the South Elgin sectional last fall, there would not be a single local athlete returning from the state finals in Bloomington last fall. Quin McNeive and Nathan Dalton, however, hold the distinction for the Vikings.
But there are multiple sectional returnees -- most prominently at St. Charles East and Huntley -- throughout the area.
"My focus is not on October but August and getting better," said St. Charles East coach John Stock, who would have returned his entire regional runner-up team had Casey Makowski not relocated to Florida. "We need to find that balance of finding camaraderie, having fun and getting better."
Geneva, which followed its title in the inaugural year of the DuKane Conference with a regional championship, lost four-year state qualifiers Tyler Isenhart (Baylor) and Augustana basketball recruit Jack McDonald.
"But they're still going to be good," said Batavia coach Tim DeBruycker. "They were real good at the fresh-soph level last year."
"We are very much looking forward to the upcoming season," Geneva coach Eric Hatczel said. "There is a lot of talent among the boys."
St. Charles North returns four sectional veterans.
"I think we are on the right track," North Stars coach Justin Moriarty said.
Huntley has the same number from its regional-championship contingent from a year ago.
"There are a lot of (local) groups who are going to be like us -- relying on younger players," Huntley coach Collin Kalamatis said. "We are trying to build a competitive nature with those younger players."
South Elgin is in the best position among the local Upstate Eight Conference schools. Dilan Patel is unquestionably the finest player at South Elgin.
"He's licking his chops to go to state," South Elgin coach Gordon Brown said of his sectional qualifier.
"I would like to see a couple of my players advance past the regional," Bartlett coach Jim Dinkheller said. "It's just like anything: we need to get some experience under our belt."
Zac Uhm emerged from relative obscurity to post the finest regional round among returning Class 3A returnees. West Aurora did not play its regional on its home course last fall, but Uhm surprised the field at Blackberry Oaks in Bristol with a medalist one-under par 71 for the host Blackhawks.
Fox Valley boys golf at a glance
Top teams: Kaneland, Geneva, Crystal Lake South, St. Charles East, Jacobs
Top players: Alex Berlin, Elgin Academy, so.; Trevor Beaugureau, Cary-Grove, sr.; Trevor Book, Huntley, jr.; Kyle Bunnetto, West Aurora, sr.; Ethan Czer, Marmion, so.; Jake Daeschler, St. Charles East, jr.; Nathan Dalton, Geneva, sr.; Tyler DiDomenico, Burlington Central, jr.; Joey Dunklau, St. Charles East, sr.; Ricky Falbo, Crystal Lake South, jr.; Ari Fragen, Batavia, sr.; Ryan Frantic, Jacobs jr.; Cody Ganzon, Kaneland, so.; Josh Good, Huntley, so.; Nathan Gordon, St. Charles North, sr.; Michael Greenhill, Cary-Grove, sr; David Griggs, St. Charles East, sr.; Eric Haegelland, Westminster, jr., Jackson Hulsey, Westminster, so.; Nate Jablonski, Cary-Grove, jr.; Nikiel Karna, Elgin Academy, so.; Jake Kleist, Batavia, sr.; Alec Korabik, Hampshire; Clark Lewis, Bartlett, jr.; Alex Lilly, St. Charles North, jr.; John Lishchynsky, Crystal Lake South, sr.; CJ Lundquist, Hampshire; Tyson Malak, Burlington Central, so.; Alex Matsas, Dundee-Crown, jr.; Quin McNeive, Geneva, jr.; Charlie McQueeny, St. Edward, so.; Tom McQueeny, St. Edward, so.; Matt McQuillen, Dundee-Crown, sr.; Austin Miller, Aurora Central, jr.; Ryan Milton, Kaneland, jr.; Michael Mindykowski, St. Edward, sr.; John Mooney, Geneva, sr.; Aaron Munson, Marmion, jr.; Bennett Mortensen, St. Charles East, jr.; Gavin Newkirk, Batavia, fr.; Michael Partoll, Kaneland, sr.; Dilan Patel, South Elgin, sr.; Josh Pehl, Kaneland, so.; Chris Petri, St. Charles East, jr.; Andrew Rechsteiner, Jacobs, sr.; Francis Resurreccion, Bartlett, sr.; Ethan Ring, St. Charles North, sr.; Jason Rodman, Burlington Central, jr.; Zach Rybczyk, South Elgin, sr.; Chaz Rutke, Burlington Central, so.; Kyle Schutt, Jacobs, jr., Cole Seeger, Cary-Grove, sr.; Danny Sheedy, Huntley, so.; Adoni Sleezer, Marmion, jr.; Bryce Stair, Kaneland, sr.; Will Stewart, Crystal Lake South, jr.; Bobby Stevenson, Hampshire; Jordan Stone, Jacobs, sr.; Evan Suyak, St. Charles North, jr.; Nathan Turco, Aurora Central, sr.; Zac Uhm, West Aurora, sr.; Johnathan Vogt, Elgin Academy, so.; Sam Walker, West Aurora, sr.; Ethan Wiggs, Crystal Lake South, sr.; Johnny Yavari, Elgin Academy, jr.; Payton Yee, Hampshire; Nick Zaimins, South Elgin, so.; Hagen Zemp, Westminster, so.; Jake Zirlin, Dundee-Crown, jr.; Jake Zipparro, South Elgin, sr.