The 2015 postseason was the best of times for the Fenwick High School girls golf team.
It was also the worst of times.
After winning the first regional championship in program history with a 345 total, the Friars ballooned to a 383 at sectionals, finishing 11th in a 12-team field.
The unceremonious ending to an otherwise memorable season was a valuable lesson for the Friars, who return all but one starter.
“We had success but we also had tremendous disappointment and I think that success and disappointment have inspired the girls to make improvements,” Fenwick coach Kitty Delany said. “We had a very good day at regionals and we had a very bad day at sectionals. I think it helped them to mature.”
The highs and lows were shared by everyone on the team, including star Stephanie Mroz, who took medalist honors at the regional with a 69. But the sophomore fired an 89 at sectionals to miss the state cut one year after finishing 17th at state as a freshman.
But that swing was typical of the inconsistency shown by a young team.
“It’s a fine line between setting high expectations and not looking too far ahead,” Delany said. “You’ve just got to stay in the moment. We didn’t stay in the moment last year.
“When you’re (young), you don’t get over the bad shots, but you’ve got to. So we worked on letting the bad shot go and focusing on the next shot.”
The strategy has worked so far. The Friars are 4-1 in dual meets, including 3-1 in the GCAC. The only loss was a two-stroke decision to Loyola, which was the state runner-up last season.
Fenwick graduated Frankie Bell, who is now playing at DePauw, but returns the rest of the lineup, including Mroz and her fellow co-captains, senior Amy Kucera and junior Olivia Morrissey.
Kucera took medalist honors in the Loyola match with a 37, while Mroz has been steady. Morrissey, junior Natalie Mortell and sophomore Alexis Attard give the Friars depth.
“We’re very pleased by how we’ve played,” Delany said. “What is really making a difference is the improvement from my 3, 4 and 5 golfers.
“(Mortell) is my No. 3. She worked on her game a lot over the summer. I think she practiced every day from the day after sectionals and it is showing.”
The Friars have qualified for state twice, the last coming in 2005. They are aiming to advance this fall and have added several 18-hole tournaments to their schedule in order to prepare for the postseason.
One of those tournaments in the Decatur Eisenhower Invitational on Sept. 17, which will be played on the state meet course at Hickory Point.
The Friars will host the GCAC meet at Green Garden Country Club and the Class 2A regional meet at Cog Hill No. 1. The sectional will be at Schaumburg Golf Club.
Success and disappointment are a part of golf, but Delany hopes this time around the Friars will have more of the former and less of the latter.
“They’re learning that golf is a process,” Delany said. “You have to enjoy the process. They’ve shown resilience and come back from disappointment.”
Fenwick was dropped down to 2A last season and the Friars took full advantage of it, qualifying for the state meet for the sixth time in school history and first since 2008.
The Friars’ fifth-place finish was their best ever,
“That was great,” Fenwick coach Jerry Kribs said. “We had so much fun last year that we’d like to do it again.”
The quest will be harder this fall, however, because the IHSA has bumped the Friars back up to Class 3A.
“It will be a challenge, but the kids are excited and eager to rise the challenge,” Kribs said. “(Being there before) has made them hungrier.”
Four starters return, led by senior Jack Mortell, who finished 12th individually at the state finals last year with a 10-over-par 152 total. Mortell is just the fifth All-State player in program history and the first since Conor Weldon finished seventh in 2005
“Jack is our leader who obviously is a great player,” Kribs said. “He’s looking to go with a strong finish.”
Mortell’s career likely won’t be finished this fall. Kribs said Mortell is drawing interest from several colleges, including Carthage.
“He’ll be playing college golf next year; it’s just a matter of where,” Kribs said. “This season will have on impact on where.”
Also back are a trio of juniors. Billy Bruce and Reese Wildermuth tied for 63rd at state with 170s, while Michael Scudder shared 107th place with a 189.
One of them will have to replace graduated Christian Early, who was 31st at state last fall, as the No. 2 man behind Mortell.
“Reese has been working a lot on his game in the summer,” Kribs said. “He’s taking on that added responsibility.”
The two new starters are senior Cole Fisher and sophomore Josh Kirkham, who flirted with the nine-hole school record last week before settling for a 4-under 32 at Joliet Country Club.
Kirkham’s score was two shots off the record set last year by Mortell, who fired a 30 at Harborside International.
The Friars are off to a 3-1 start. The only loss was a six-shot decision to perennial power Providence, which placed ninth in Class 3A last fall.
“The guys are playing well right now but golf is such a short season, so you want to make sure you peak at the right time,” Kribs said. “They want to be playing their best golf at the end of the season.”