The growing pains of a year ago are over for the Riverside-Brookfield girls' golf team. With new-found experience mixed with some new talent, the Bulldogs might just have a formula for success.
"We should be a much stronger team this year," said RB coach Barb Panek, who takes over for long-time coach Bob Johnston. "Sometimes losing hurts, but when you want to win it motivates you to get better. We had a lot of girls that put in their time over the summer, trying to play every other day. I think a lot of them are seeing that all that work you put in really pays off."
RB will be led by a pair of senior co-captains.
Brittany Harrington is back after battling injuries a year ago, while four-year varsity starter Chrissy Jensen is expected to be as reliable as ever for the Bulldogs.
Junior Rachel Bondurant has returned this fall as a better golfer, and sophomores Thea Stehlic-Barry, Jocelyn Quezeda, Lauren Endriukitis and Megan Kitner are looking to capitalize on their experiences of a year ago.
The Bulldogs will also add a pair of talented freshmen in Jorianne Maritato and Chelsea Goldsmith. Maritato in particular has shown tremendous potential, driving the ball farther than 200 yards.
RB has already had its first taste of success this year, winning a dual with Nazareth Academy on Friday.
Maritato and Harrington both carded scores of 39 over nine holes, while Endriukitis and Bondurant both shot 51s. With the teams tied at 180 strokes, the tiebreaker went to the fifth golfer, where Stehlic-Barry's score of 54 threw the match to the Bulldogs.
"Obviously our goal is to be playing our best golf when we get to regionals," Panek said. "We have kids that could be (All-Suburban Prairie Conference), and we'd like to send someone to sectionals. And we'd like to win some more matches."
The RB boys' golf team struggled in its first action of the season in the Lemont Invite on Friday at the Broken Arrow Golf Club. Sophomore David Oswald carded a 91 through 18 holes to lead the Bulldogs, who finished with a team score of 398.
"I think we hoped to do better, but it was a tough course," said first-year coach Larry Rocco. "You can't just go up and hit the ball there. You have to take time and think about your shots. I'm confident we'll get better. This is just a starting point."
Seniors Andy Ritter and team captain Andy Raniewski will be the leaders of this year's squad. Matt Petkus should also be a significant contributor once he recovers from some minor injuries.
Rocco will be looking for help from his entire roster, which includes Matt Patton, Ryan Racconi, Tim LeBeau, Chris Allen, Mike Peloso, Brian Walter, Brad Larson, Brian Feely, Charlie Graening.
RB has a busy week with four matches, and Rocco estimates the season could be almost a third of the way finished by the end of it. He would prefer to have more practice time on the greens for his team, but is looking forward to seeing how the squad improves.
"Our goal is just to be playing our best golf at the end of the year," Rocco said. "We want to get better as the season goes on. As we go out there every day, we expect to get better."