After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, the Tunkhannock Area golf team has its sights set on turning into a main contender in the Wyoming Valley Conference.
While losing six seniors to graduation may have left the Tigers in a hole, head coach Andy Neely is confident that Tunkhannock will be able to dig themselves out.
“We’re certainly not going to be deep this year, but we do have some talented golfers at the top of that lineup,” Neely said.
Tunkhannock will return three starters from last season, including senior Shane Straley and juniors Jake Spencer and Brett Soltysiak.
“Brett is a bona fide number one player, so that’s always nice to have at the top of your rotation,” Neely said. “We have a nice core in returners and a couple other kids who have been grooming for this moment.”
The Tigers finished with a 5-5 record last season and sent four golfers to individual districts, including Soltysiak. Neely is hopeful that his team can improve on its overall team record while still producing solid individual play.
“I have no idea what we’re in store for this year,” he said. “There might be a team or two out there that’s fairly loaded but parity is going to be the word thrown throughout the league. So if teams hold serve during home matches and break even in away matches that just might be enough to win the league.”
Neely, who is entering into his ninth season as head coach, said that he will be looking for some early consistency from his team while preparing for next week’s first match.
“With our returning players, getting any level of consistency is going to be key,” he said. “I’m hoping to get the starters to go out and shoot pretty decent rounds every day at practice as opposed to a great round and then a horrible round. If we have big swings in our scores, we won’t do as well. For our younger guys, there will be a lot of time developing golf swings and making those kids into golfers. We need to be consistent.”
Neely also noted that without much depth, Tunkhannock will need to keep the ball in play and avoid penalties because each stroke is even more important.
The Tigers will open their season on the road, playing five of their six away matches before school even starts, which Neely said should benefit the team and give them a better chance of puting forth a playoff-worthy season.
“For years, you’d have to win 11 or 12 matches and basically run the season to have a shot. I don’t see that happening this year with this league,” Neely said. “If we play really well at home and win a few on the road we might be right in the hunt. All you can ask for is to be a contender.”
Joining Straley, Soltysiak and Spencer on the Tunkhannock roster are juniors Mike Greene, Bobby Gilpin, Hunter Prevost and Alex Frear; sophomore Luke Straley; and freshmen Alex Bushre, Logan Fowler and Chris Shannon.
Aug. 14, at Dallas, 3:30 p.m.
Aug. 15, at Towanda, 10 a.m.
Aug. 18, at Pittston Area, Tryba Tournament, Fox Hills Country Club, 8 a.m.
Aug. 19, at Pittston Area, 3 p.m., girls Jackman Tournament, Scranton Minu, 8 a.m.
Aug. 21, at Coughlin, 3 p.m.
Aug. 25, Wyoming Area, 3 p.m.
Aug. 27, Dallas, 3 p.m.
Aug. 29, Berwick, 3 p.m.
Sept. 2, at Hazleton, 3 p.m.
Sept. 3, girls host Scranton Prep, 3 p.m.
Sept. 4, Crestwood, 3 p.m.
Sept. 8, Wyoming Valley West, 3 p.m.
Sept. 12, Pittston Area, 3 p.m.
Sept. 15, Coughlin, 3 p.m.
Sept. 19, at Wyoming Area, 3 p.m.
Sept. 22, at Pittston, pre-districts meet, 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 24, Towanda, 4 p.m.
Sept. 25, playoffs, Fox Hill.
Sept. 29, at Fox Hill, districts, 3 p.m.