By Kyle LoJacono
The Wesley Chapel girls golf team has made the playoffs the last two years, both times advancing as a district runner-up.
It’s tremendous consistency for a program that was unable to field a team in 2008 and 2009.
“The biggest thing when I first got here was getting some exposure that we had a team,” said third-year Wildcats coach Chuck Yingling Jr. “We just kept talking it up. That word of mouth has gotten it out there. … There’s girls who I haven’t spoken to, but I’ve heard there are eighth and ninth graders who are interested in being part of the team next year. We went from almost literally begging girls to come out my first year to having a surplus, so there’s definitely more buzz and excitement.
“My first year, it took us half the season to get our fourth golfer, which you need for a full team,” Yingling continued. “We were runner-up in district. Last year we had four the whole way. This year we’ve got seven.”
One of the additions last year is Samantha Stebens, a senior.
“I golfed when I was little, but I gave that up for cheerleading,” Stebens said. “I went back to golf when I stopped having fun cheerleading, plus I was better at golf.”
Wesley Chapel’s newly found depth includes the return of junior Hana Lee, who was the squad’s No. 1 golfer in 2010 before taking last year off. The Wildcats lose only one senior from last year, Savanna Bischof.
“It’s definitely the deepest team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Yingling said. “We get Hana back, who’s one of the top players in the state. We have Allison Kosloski, who’s a sophomore and finished in the top 15 in conference as a freshman. We have a couple other girls who are newer. I think we’re definitely a contender to win districts and place a little higher at regionals.”
Kosloski said it’s exciting playing on a team that is growing in popularity.
“It was new for me because I’d never played on a team sport for school,” Kosloski said. “Golf was the only thing I connected with. It was a lot of fun. Districts was big for me last year. That was my best game, and I came in 12th, which was really exciting because I was a freshman and beating a lot of competition.”
Kosloski said she’s been working on her short game with the hopes of improving her finish at districts. Lee and Stebens have been focusing on the same skills.
“I can hit, but putting and chipping were what I needed to get better,” Stebens said.
Wesley Chapel is 4-3 with victories against Sunlake and River Ridge along with Class 1A-District 9 rivals Ridgewood and Hudson.
The start has Lee filled with high hopes for this season.
“I think this year we might be able to make states with the talent everyone has,” Lee said. “When states come they’re going to be really good. They’ve been taking lessons, so they’re going to get even better.”
Yingling’s long-term goal is getting the program its first district title.
“We have the depth, and we really had no depth before,” Yingling said. “Fivay’s a great team, and they won the district last year. There’s good teams in our district, but a district championship is realistic. … Short term, our goal is to have a better score each week.”
Wesley Chapel roster
Laura Bernaldo, Jr.
Allison Kosloski, So.
Hana Lee, Jr.
Jenna Marquadt, So.
Crystal Santos, So.
Samantha Stevens, Sr.
Kelly Tanner, Sr.