The 2017 season proved to be a special one for Lincoln-Way Central’s girls golf team.
Coach Brian Shannon’s Knights won regional and sectional titles and advanced to state for the first time since 1976. They took sixth place in Class 2A and had two all-staters in Bri Bolden and Grace Curran, who are now both seniors.
With Taylor Miron being the lone senior on last year’s state team, which turned in the school’s best-ever finish, prospects are once again high for the Knights, who hope to qualify for consecutive state final appearances for the second time, with the other occasion coming in 1975-76.
Bolden tied for second place at the state finals, one stroke behind the champion, New Trier’s Penelope Tir. Curran finished tied for fifth place, three strokes behind the winner.
It was the second straight year that the two friends earned all-state recognition, a feat that no Knights golfer had accomplished before. In 2016, Curran won the state championship, while Bolden claimed a 10th-place finish.
In all individual girls sports at the original Lincoln-Way and the subsequent years as Central, no other pair of teammates have earned all-state honors in consecutive seasons.
They also are hoping to be only the second and third individuals from area schools to become three-time all-staters in the sport. The only other player to accomplish that was Providence’s Dana Mackey, who was a four-time medalist from 1988 to ’91.
Besides Bolden and Curran, other returners include juniors Maddie Pyle and Carly Schiene and sophomores Sydney Miron and Caitlyn Parrish.
“This team put a lot of hard work in the summer,” Shannon said. “I am excited to see how this translates to the IHSA season.”
Two other Class 2A state qualifiers who also return are Joliet Township junior Maddy Palmer and Providence Catholic senior Ellie Bilotta.
In addition, the Celtics have five players back from a team that also advanced to the sectional, their sixth straight team to do that. Other seniors playing with Bilotta are Kayla Ambrose, Catherine McErlean and Sarah Wedemeier and junior Elizabeth Martello.Tori Sojka is a junior who should be in the mix.
“The thing that’s most exciting about this group is how well they get along on and off the course,” Celtics coach Jim Barker said. “The chemistry between them comes out each day. They have fun, and it’s a good group of kids.”
Lockport qualified four individuals for the sectional, and all of them return this season. They are juniors Megan Kohley and Rachel Kuzel, along with sophomores Claire Ancevicius and Katie Tomczuk. Others to watch include senior Kearney Pluth, sophomore Fiona Heeney and freshman Lizzie Anderson.
“We are very excited for the season,” Porters coach Robin Prokaski said. “All varsity players from last year are returning to the team, which includes four sectional qualifiers. We are a young team with still a lot to prove, but we think this team has a lot of potential for success this year and years to come.”
Lincoln-Way East returns three from last year’s sectional qualifying team. Coach Mary McGivern has senior Samantha Bollman and juniors Jessica Loera and Grace Wilk back.
Plainfield North also won a regional title last year and returns half of that starting six. They are seniors Madeline Dwyer and Madeline Hacker, along with junior Julianna Gerdes.
Minooka returns three individuals from a team that qualified for its eighth straight sectional a year ago for coach Joe Host. They are seniors Megan Chiappetta and Anna Tomala and junior Abby Pettigrew.
Lemont had two sectional qualifiers who return. Senior Maggie Micetich, who was a state qualifier in 2015 when she was just a freshman, and junior KateLynne Rostis.
Plainfield South captured the Southwest Prairie Conference title after winning the league tournament to overcome a fourth-place finish in dual meets. But it only returns one individual, senior Shannon Smith, who also was a sectional qualifier.
Besides Palmer, Joliet Township’s co-op has two other returning sectional qualifiers: sophomores Morgan Anderson and Anna Talarico. Others who got to a sectional last year and return are Plainfield East senior Alexis Garcia and Bolingbrook senior Jordyn Elliott.
The area’s lone returning state qualifier in Class 1A is Reed-Custer junior Amber Maddox. Others in that class who qualified for sectionals last season and return are Joliet Catholic sophomore Isabel Westberg and Morris senior Kailyn Hoaglund.
One of the area’s biggest regular-season tournaments takes place at 7 a.m. Saturday, when Joliet Township hosts its invitational at Wedgewood Golf Course. Local teams taking part in the event include JCA, Lincoln-Way Central, Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way West, Minooka, Plainfield East, Plainfield North and Plainfield South.