South Tama County's girls golf team might not repeat last year's top-four state performance, but it does return one of the best golfers in the state.
The Lady Trojans lost five of their seven players from the 2012 roster that finished fourth at the Class 3A State Championship in Ankeny. Those five graduated players left a big hole for now juniors Paige Van Dyk and Carrie Cibula to fill this spring. Along with head coach Kelle Boles, the Lady Trojans now have enough golfers to compete as a team this season.
"We had to try hard," Boles said. "We put out an announcement that said the girls' golf team doesn't have a full team, if you're interested. These girls volunteered and here we are. They're having fun."
Boles and her two returning players worked vigorously to get players out for their sport. In the end, it's paid off as the Lady Trojans have six golfers - two more than needed to score as a team at a tournament.
"At first, I was a little worried," Van Dyk said. "Now I'm excited. We have some beginning players, so it should be fun teaching them how to play. There isn't much pressure. It's not my senior year, so I hope we can have some fun."
Joining Van Dyk and Cibula on the roster are sophomore Laurel Schwarnweber, sophomore Erin Clayton, sophomore Elysiana Gonzalez and junior Shellene Lacina. Schwarnweber is the only one with any golf experience. However that wasn't on a team.
"(Paige) has stepped up and taking the role as the leader, along with Carrie," Boles said. "They are showing these other young kids what they need to do, along with the rules and that kind of stuff. There's a lot to learn. She's helping them with their swing, too. She's natural at it."
Van Dyk returns as the Lady Trojans' leading golfer this spring. After a solid freshman campaign ended with a bad district tournament, Van Dyk returned as one of the top two STC golfers as a sophomore. She led the Lady Trojans, along with older sister Taylor Van Dyk, during the 2012 season. Paige finished fourth at the 3A state tournament, while her sister tied for fifth.
With her sister graduated and playing at the University of Northern Iowa, the younger Van Dyk is already stepping into the leadership role.
"She is a leader," Boles said. "I think she's ready to get this going. She's got raw talent. It's natural talent. She has a nice easy swing that she doesn't have to work too hard at. She doesn't think too much about it. She just gets up and does it. She's ready to get going. I see here going a long way."
The STC junior also has high expectations for herself after finishing fourth at state a year ago. She's ready to take charge of the STC squad.
"I'm excited," Van Dyk said. "I hope this year can be my year. I'm excited, but I have to work hard. Hopefully I can accomplish what I want. I want to make state and then hopefully place first or second."
Cibula should have a larger role this spring. She normally finished fifth or sixth on the Lady Trojans' roster a year ago. Her coach has big expectations for Cibula this year.
"She played well toward the end of the year last year," Boles said. "I think she should be in the 40s this year. I see her shooting in the mid 40s."
While the Lady Trojans are still expecting good things this season, they've battled practice problems like every spring sport. Cold weather and snow delayed the first weeks of practice and have made it impossible for the Lady Trojans to practice at the Tama-Toledo Country Club, as the course remained closed as of last week.
The Lady Trojans have been practicing inside the STC gym or they've hit some shots north of the STC soccer field. They're making the best of it, but Boles and her players are ready to play on a real course.
"We have a nice little setup inside where we were hitting wiffle balls," Boles said. "But you can't just the distance, if they've got a slice, if they're turning or anything inside. It's nice setup to get warmed up in, but this is going on four weeks now. The girls have been outside five days, practicing and just hitting balls. They're not afraid of the cold. They don't say much.
"It's hard when you're only hitting the ball 100 yards," she added. "You don't get to hit drivers or short irons. We don't have a hole or a green, so you can't putt. We're doing the best we can and we're in the same situation everyone else is in right now. At least the snow is off the ground."
Van Dyk agreed.
"Last year, we had three qualifying rounds at this point," Van Dyk said. "This year, we haven't even been out on a course. This weekend was the first time I played on a course, but we haven't as a team yet."
South Tama is scheduled to host Grinnell at home Friday in a coed meet with the boys squad.