It’s been four years since Carroll last won a title at the East Noble Girls Golf Sectional, but the Chargers’ head coach, Bryan Koehlinger, believes this could be the year his team returns to the top of the ranks.
The Knights’ sectional tournament, at Cobblestone Golf Course in Kendallville, has been dominated by Northridge the past three years. Last year, the champion Raiders had their best round in that 3-year streak, shooting a 340 overall, and at this point in the season, Koehlinger is confident the Chargers can even notch a few strokes off that winning score.
“We’ve shot the 165s (in nine holes). We shot a 169 the other night, and we didn’t have our best round. We had a couple girls where there was still some room for improvement, so we definitely feel strongly that we can shoot 335. It’s an achievable goal — it’s not just thrown out there,” Koehlinger said Sept. 8.
If the regular season has been any indication, the Chargers could be poised to best last year’s 360 at Cobblestone by leaps and bounds. During this year’s Concordia invite at Foster Park, the team shot a collective 319 — a Carroll High School record — with scoring by Maria Krotov (78), Tiffany Chin (79), Emily Linder (80) and Marissa Gerue (82).
“It’s the same girls as last year, for the most part, but as far as their golf game goes, they’ve worked hard at it and made lots of improvements,” Koehlinger said. “It’s been a fun year to coach.”
Krotov, in particular, has made vast improvements from her freshman to sophomore seasons, Koehlinger said. “She’s improved by literally 20 strokes from last year to this year. It’s unbelievable — it’s unreal — but she puts a lot of time and effort into it, and that’s what it takes. Her hard work has certainly paid off.”
More importantly, it’s not just one golfer carrying the weight. Chin, Gerue and Krotov have each led the team in scoring during separate tournaments this season, and solid team efforts have helped the Chargers collect a 10-1 record during the dual-match season.
“That’s why we’ve been so competitive this year is it’s not just a one-girl show,” Koehlinger said. “It’s been a team effort, and that’s why we’ve won most of our matches. If someone has a bad round, somebody else seems to be able to step up and make up for that somewhere else. You can’t always have a great round every time you go out on the golf course. You hope for it and you try for it, but the reality is it doesn’t always work out that way, so the girls have been able to step up and help out when they need to.”
The Chargers’ only 9-hole loss this season came against the reigning state champions from Homestead. Getting over the sectional hump will mean defeating some tough opponents in Columbia City and Concord. The Chargers defeated Concord on Cobblestone’s front nine on Sept. 4. The team defeated Columbia City by seven strokes during the Aug. 3 Homestead invitational, but fell to the Eagles a few weeks later at New Haven’s Bulldog Invitational, which Columbia City won. Carroll and Columbia City were scheduled to face each other again at Autumn Ridge on Tuesday.
“Who we’ve played already is competition that we will see again in sectionals. Columbia City is one of them that we’re going to have to definitely play our A game to beat. They’re right up there at the same caliber we’re at,” Koehlinger said.
“All the girls have definitely stepped up. My seniors have stepped up and really worked hard at making those improvements through the summer months as well, and through the course of the season too. They continue to become more solid as time goes on, and their numbers get lower and more consistent, so that’s been our strong point.”
The Chargers will compete against 11 other teams at sectional on Friday. That tournament is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. at Cobblestone. In the meantime, the team will continue to focus on individual skills for improvement.
“The girls know certain strengths and weaknesses of their game, and the focus of a lot of our practices has been more individualized. Through the course of the year, I get to know each and every one of their swings at an individual level. As a group, short game is a big factor for us, so we do spend an enormous amount of time doing short-game stuff, and that’s where you can make up for some poor shots you’ve made along the way with a chip and a putt, minimizing any damage you might have had.”