It’s almost mid-August and that means the earliest-starting high school sport has teed off in the Wabash Valley.
Clearly, that would be girls golf.
Here’s how the three Vigo County teams and Northview appear to stack up for 2019:
• Terre Haute South — Beginning her 15th season in charge, Cara Stuckey should again have a formidable group of Braves invading the courses. Defending their 2018 sectional championship may not be easy for the Braves, who went on to place a respectable ninth in the 18-team regional before losing two of their top players to graduation. Returning is likely No. 1 player Sophie Boyll, a junior who finished second in last year’s sectional with a 79 at Forest Park.
“Sophie is our player who’s most committed to playing in tournaments in the summer,” Stuckey said. “She puts in the time and improves each year. She usually plays her best when the important matches are on the line.”
Joining Boyll are sophomore Grace Kidwell and junior Sailor Myers. Also back after a one-year absence from the team is junior Lainey Anshutz.
Stuckey listed the following players battling for the No. 5 spot — senior Tatum Hill, junior Abi Haller and senior Amanda Martinez.
Looking at the rest of the Valley, Stuckey expects Terre Haute North and Northview — as usual — to be the Braves’ toughest competition. Regarding Conference Indiana, she didn’t hesitate to name Columbus North, which finished seventh in the state a year ago, as the favorite to capture the championship.
South’s first match of the season will be today’s Washington Invitational.
• Terre Haute North — Third-year coach Brent Mier has had one match with the Patriots already this season. On Monday, they placed 12th in the 19-team Bloomington South Invitational with a team score of 409.
Last season, North came in second in the sectional, four strokes behind South.
The Patriots have 10 players back from their 2018 squad, led by junior and defending sectional individual champ Nikki Bonilla (78).
“Nikki has played varsity since the first day she stepped in the door [in 2017],” Mier told the Tribune-Star. “She’s a big hitter ... and she’s worked diligently on her short game.”
Also planning to do well for North are returning seniors Claire Thrift and Nikki’s sister, Gabby Bonilla.
Mier would like at least two from the combination of seniors Ally Cockrell, Kaylee Atterson and Morgan Adams and sophomores Paige Loughmiller and Karson Hart to emerge and give the Patriots a solid starting five.
North will continue its season today in the Southmont Invitational.
• West Vigo — A family emergency kept Chris Cassell from completing last season as the Vikings’ coach, but he was grateful that assistant Jordan Pearson was able to keep the program running smoothly in his absence.
Ready to take over again for his seventh season in charge, Cassell will rely on five seniors to post West Vigo’s best scores — Isabela Miller, Emily Noe, Ashton Stewart, Jenna Minor and Aliyah Orten. Noe and Minor are four-year varsity performers. Plus, sophomore newcomer Kami Knight hopes to leap into the top five.
“They’re all great girls,” Cassell emphasized. “They have great attitudes. They’re all willing to improve. They’re great listeners. Every day at practice, we have fun.”
The 2019 Vikings will debut Thursday against Sullivan at Rea Park.
• Northview — Josh Trout’s Knights were regional qualifiers as a team last season, having finished third behind South and North in the sectional, and won the Western Indiana Conference title.
Among their top returnees is sophomore Brooklee Bussing.
“Last year [as a freshman], she was our No. 2,” explained Trout, starting his ninth season at the helm (third in this stint after taking a break). “She made the all-conference squad and had a solid round at the sectional [with an 88].”
One newcomer likely to make an impact is freshman Karsyn Kikta. “She’s put up a lot of really solid scores in practice so far,” Trout noted.
Three returning seniors — Abby Drake, JoJo Allen and Heidi Ehrlich — round out the rest of Northview’s top five and provide solid leadership.
Trout mentioned there are other freshmen, besides Kikta, who could jump into the mix as they gain more experience.
Trout anticipates South being in the hunt for team sectional honors again this season, with North not too far behind, while he believes Northview is a strong contender to repeat as WIC champion.
The Knights will open their season Tuesday against Monrovia at Deer Creek Course in Clayton.