Impressive improvements for Manchester University's men's and women's golf teams in 2017-18 have head coach Tara Boone thinking about what could be as the curtain raises for this year's fall slate in late August.
"We have a good balance of upperclassmen and upperclasswomen to go with some newcomers [on both teams]," she stated. "It's going to come down to how willing everyone is to put the work in on and off the course. We've got to be physically fit because of the amount of golf we're playing [throughout 2018-19]."
Both sides have six meets scheduled over September and October. "The women are used to that type [of schedule]," Boone pointed out. "The guys, though, are facing something new. It's very different from playing 18 holes every once in a while as has happened in past fall seasons. This time around, there'll be several weekends in a row with 36 holes."
MU's women's team, who competes for the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship in October, has a roster featuring four-year team member Haleigh Fernandez (Selma, Ind.) and a strong sophomore class that includes Taylor Erfman (Brookville, Ind.) and Kaitlyn Cook (Monticello, Ind.), each of whom were part of the five best stroke averages from a year ago.
"Our returners have made a lot of improvement," Boone said. "I don't see us skipping a beat [from 2017-18]. We did lose some quality seniors last season, but Haleigh added in with the sophomores have stepped up and done what they're told with no questions asked. It's an outstanding group all the way around."
"This bunch is very competitive," she added. "They each know what it takes to win and has put in the work [to get to that point]. We came away with one tournament championship last year, and I think we're ready to add to that [in 2018-19]."
As for the men's program, the Spartans return four individuals from 2017-18. If their head coach sees any semblance of the progression they made last year from start to finish, she'll have plenty to look forward to.
"They were like a different team from the start of the fall to the end of the spring," Boone reminisced. "We've increased our schedule [to try to build on that]. I'm hoping [senior] Conor [Labedz of Aurora, Ill.] will take an even stronger leadership role as well as [junior] Zach [Edwards of Plainfield, Ind.]. Our success possibility comes down to the two of them taking charge and having that mentality trickle down."
"I wanted them to get as much playing time as possible," she added about the bigger fall slate. "We're moving in earlier … getting more practice. They struggled with a lighter start [in 2017-18], so I think this situation will be a positive."
While Boone is excited for the season to begin, she's telling her student-athletes to manage on and off course opportunities wisely.
"Time is short for the season, preparations, studies and so on," she said. "Each person needs to schedule for success on the course and in the classroom as they go hand-in-hand."