Here is a look at the upcoming 2018 season for The Times-area teams in the Little Ten Conference:
For the third year, both Newark and Serena High School will come together to form a co-op with veteran Serena coach and teacher Chad Baker at the helm.
The Norsemen will return a wealth of talent including four seniors, five juniors and two sophomores who will comprise a varsity squad after having no seniors on its roster in 2017. A mix of incoming freshmen will also contribute, but not on the varsity level.
New-Ser achieved some fine success last year, losing only two regular-season matches and winning the Little Ten Conference championship for the second year in a row. But the Norsemen fell short of qualifying as a team for sectionals, finishing ninth at the St. Bede Class 1A Regional.
Baker thinks this year will write a different story for his experienced linksters.
"We didn't play very well in the regional last season, but we had a great year in which we lost only a couple of matches," Baker said. "We won the Little Ten Conference championship for the second straight season, and I think we can do it again. Our goal is to advance out of the regional as a group and see what happens at sectionals.
"We've got some very talented golfers coming back, and I'm very excited about this season."
Seniors Brett Myre, Corey Jacobson, and Wyatt Snyder along with top-scoring junior Connor Baker give the Norsemen a solid foursome with the ability to post low totals. Add to that the fine mix of juniors Tanner Kunkel, Porter Arneson, Nate Burns and Jack Rogers as well as sophomores Lane Stegman and Trent Johnson, providing the Norsemen some talented depth.
Third-year coach Mitch Edwards will lead a group of 10 Bobcat boys that feature six returnees from last year's roster. Edwards is hoping that experience can lead to increased success. Last season, SHS finished fifth at the five-team Little Ten Conference Meet and placed 14th at the St. Bede Class A Regional.
"This looks like the best team I've had so far, and I honestly think we can accomplish some good things," Edwards said. "The ultimate goal is to advance out of regionals and sectionals and maybe even get somebody to state. But we've got a lot of work to do in order to make that happen."
Leading the way for the Bobcats will be seniors Jake Norris and Zach Olson, along with juniors Charlie Vermeland and Charlie Titzel as well as sophomores Tyler Jansen and Ryan Johnson. Freshmen Blaise McGowen, Jaylen Dion, Jack Didito and Brock Zimmerman round out the Somonauk contingent.
After nine years, Curt Alsvig resigned his coaching duties with the Lady Bobcats linksters to spend more time with his growing family. That opened the door for Mike Crackel to take over the helm. Crackel was the head softball coach at Newark for a number of years before he resigned that post after the 2017 campaign. Crackel will lead a group of six Somonauk girls that returns four competitors from last season's roster.
"We're going to try to build up the girls' confidence, work on their game a little bit and hopefully have a great deal of fun while improving in the game of golf," Crackel said. "I'm looking forward to getting to know these girls and helping them succeed on the course."
Senior returnees Hailey Jansen, Emily Chism and Madison White will lead the way along with returning sophomore Abby Schiltz. Junior newcomers Dori Manzke and Madison Vermeland will also compete within the small but talented Lady Bobcat bunch.
Fourth-year coach Brock Harp has some work cut out for him trying to replace six golfers who graduated, including 2017 Little Ten Conference champion Grant Campbell, also a sectional qualifier who missed a state berth by one shot.
Harp will lead a group of five that brings back some solid talent.
"I had a great group of seniors that I worked with for three years, and now that they're gone we've got a little bit of a gap to make up," Harp said. "But I know these guys are looking to step up, and I think even though we're small in numbers we can be competitive on the course."
Junior Branson Vahl is a solid No. 1, while senior Dalton Gast isn't too far behind. Senior Tyler Bretsch returns after missing his junior year on the links, while sophomore Connor Cook and freshman Jake Pickert complete the Red Raider crew.
The Panthers will have only one golfer, senior Skyler Brue, who will be coached by her mother, Nicole Brue.
Skyler Brue was a sectional qualifier after placing third at the 2017 Class 1A Putnam County Regional.