With the Lady Leaf golf team returning its entire squad except one, the girls have high hopes for the season.

With the Lady Leaf golf team returning its entire squad except one, the girls have high hopes for the season.

“They have set some pretty lofty goals and they want to accomplish a lot of things,” said head coach Steve Brucher. “They want to win conference and win regionals again. They came up short at sectionals last year, so I think they would like to finish in the Top 3 at sectionals to advance to state. You want to have high expectations, and I think they are realistic for the simple fact we have a lot returning. If you look at the postseason we have five of our six coming back.”

While the Lady Leafs return five out of the team’s six golfers from last year, coach Brucher said there are still some question marks as to who will fill that final spot in the line up.

“I feel really good about the top of our lineup,” said Brucher. “Monica Lieving is a good anchor to start with and then we put Emily VandeWiele in there. She put in a lot of time and played a lot. Monica and Emily give us a nice one-two combo at the top of the line up.”

With four experienced seniors returning and a junior who has played varsity since her freshman year, the Lady Leaf team will be a veteran squad this year.

Seniors looking to lead the way this season are: Abby Frank, Bailey Ries, VandeWiele and Abby Wilebski.

“Emily is our captain, and she, by nature, will be relied on to do some things, but I hope the other three seniors will assume some of the responsibility and leadership and hold themselves and their teammates accountable,” said Brucher.

The juniors vying for a varsity spot are: Amber Dauksas, Lieving, Taylor McKean, Corey Panicucci, Sierra Sommer and Emma Vandemore.

“ I hope a couple of the juniors will challenge to get into the Top 6,” said Brucher. “After Monica and Amber, who played varsity last year; Emma played in some varsity matches and Taylor shows potential. Corey and Sierra also have really improved.”

Lilly Henderson is the lone sophomore on the squad this year and coach Brucher said this will be a season of learning for her since this is her first season as a full-time golfer. Last season, she split time between golf and cheerleading.

The freshmen joining the Lady Leafs this year are: Mazie Calderon, Heather Dietrich, Carson Dodge, Lauren Murray and Andie Welch.

“For the freshmen it is going to be about learning and improving,” said Brucher. “Lauren Murray shows a lot of promise and, I think, at some point, she will push to get into the Top 10 or so. I think for the other girls it is just about them getting out on the course and playing.”

While it is still too early to tell what this team’s strengths will be, Brucher said he has a few girls in Monica, Emily and Bailey who can hit the ball a long way from a distance perspective, which he believes is a strength and positive for the team. He also said he has other girls who don’t hit the ball as far, but are pretty consistent about keeping the ball in fairway.

The big challenge for the Lady Leafs will be improving on their short game.

“I think our lineup can be fluid and we can move girls in and out depending on who plays well,” said Brucher. “We have to have a core group at the Top 1-4 that should be solid, but from there we can move others in and out to get that experience at the varsity level.”

The Lady Leafs open the 2014 season this weekend at the Rock Falls Invite at noon Aug. 23.