Spartans seeking more positives this fall

Spartans seeking more positives this fall

Tara Boone knew small steps would be needed to improve the landscape of Manchester University golf.

Coming off 2013-14 campaigns where the Black and Gold finished seventh in both the men's and women's Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championships, the Spartans' head coach saw those steps being taken.

"We're working on a new attitude knowing it may take some time (to get to where we want to be)," she noted. "I've been impressed with what I've seen (from both programs) in relation to working in the off-season to make themselves better individually and also improve for the team's sake."

Adding to the returners' work are strong first-year possibilities on both sides.

"Our women's team will be youthful (with no seniors)," Boone admitted. "However, (returning sophomore Jessica) Klemm (of Columbia City, Ind.) has been very impressive as a potential leader. She worked throughout the end of our spring season, always asking how else she could improve her game. That's what I want to see as we move (into the fall season)."

Klemm, the lone returner from 2013-14, is joined by the likes of Kaitlin Powers of Indianapolis, Ind., a four-time Indiana High School Athletic Association regional qualifier from Southport HS; Madison Yenser of Fort Wayne, Ind., who was an all-conference honoree at Homestead HS; and Jennifer Oldaker of Kokomo, Ind., who also tallied all-conference honors during her prep career as part of the freshman crew.

"All of the first years have been playing on the summer golf circuit (in their hometown areas)," Boone said. "They're putting in the work to be ready for their collegiate careers. I feel like they are all very similar in being solid players."

The Spartans' fall slate features tournaments at Olivet College of Michigan, Hanover, a home invitational at Honeywell Golf Course in Wabash, John Carroll of Ohio and St. Francis of Indiana before the HCAC tournament visits their home course in early October.

"Jessica knows the course from having played it twice (during her freshman season)," Boone noted. "This will be a big help for her and also to aid her with the first year class example wise. I also feel like, with the strong credentials golf-wise of the first-year group, that they will pick up on the course very quickly.

"It'll be awesome playing conference 'at home'," she added. "I'm excited about that along with the rest of the season."

MU's men's team embarks on a five-tourney fall schedule. The Spartans go into the season as almost an exact opposite of the women's program with seven upperclassmen on their roster.

"This will be an important section," Boone said of the fall campaign. "It all counts now towards making yourself stronger for the NCAA and also prepping to face our always-strong conference in the spring.

"While I'm sure the experienced players will be part of our line-up, I do think the first-year guys will make a run at some of the top spots," she added. "It should make for some good competition once practice begins."

With seniors Dylan Crosley of Lapel, Ind.; Michael Rutledge of Granger, Ind.; Quinton Flora of Huntington, Ind.; Mitch Eby of Goshen, Ind.; and Tyler Shearer of Huntington, Ind., helping lead the way, Boone likes what she sees for 2014-15.

"We're starting to turn a corner (in the program)," she said. "The players haven't been satisfied to just go out and play rounds for practice. They are asking for instruction on all facets of their game.

"There's an added bonus for both teams to improve in practices and the fall season, too," she added. "We're taking a Puerto Rico trip the last weekend of October and only taking the top five."

Manchester University's fall seasons begin Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 30 and 31, at Olivet College of Michigan for the women and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 6 and 7, at Transylvania University of Kentucky for the men.