After winning the Division II state championship last fall, the Independence Blue Devils open the 2018 season with just one returning starter and two others with varsity experience.
Fifth-year head coach Karl Schuld is optimistic his players have the potential to compete for the Chagrin Valley Conference championship and maybe more, but the Blue Devils will have to forge their own path.
“Honestly, this team needs to forget about the accomplishments of the teams of the past two years,” Schuld said. “Those teams accomplished what they did because they were willing to sacrifice many things in order to improve. This year, we have talent but it is unfair to ask these girls to simply replace the talent that just graduated. We will preach over and over again that the goal is to have fun and laugh. Our program is built under that philosophy. We also stress, ‘One shot, one hole, one nine at a time.’ This team is very capable of amazing success. They are young and if they are willing to work hard, I have a feeling by year’s end this team will be ready to form their own story of success.”
The Blue Devils, who finished 12-0 in dual matches and won eight different tournaments, return just one starter in sophomore Morgan Pascarella.
Pascarella finished shot 93 and 97 at the state tournament.
“Morgan is one of the best athletes that I have ever coached,” Schuld said. “She is also very coachable and one of the leaders on our team. Morgan came out of nowhere last year to secure the fifth spot on our state championship team. She is very competitive and hates to lose. Once her short game comes around, she is capable of consistently scoring very well. We look for her to continue to improve throughout the season.”
Junior Emma McGreal and sophomore Allie Ksiazka both are competing with Pascarella for the top spot in the rotation and should round out the top three for Independence.
McGreal saw limited varsity action last fall but this summer she won the Southwest Golf League Player of the Year award becoming the third Blue Devil to accomplish the feat. Sophia Trombetta and Lyndsay Blum both previously won the award.
“Emma is an incredibly hard worker,” Schuld said. “She is determined to be a top golfer and she continues to improve. Since her freshman year, she has come so far with her golf game. She takes serious lessons and has practiced hours upon hours. Emma is our captain this year and we expect big things from her.”
Ksiazka, a sophomore, played in the No. 5 spot for most of last season.
“She was thrown into a very difficult situation as a ninth grader,” Schuld said. “We played many high-level tournaments early in the season and Allie responded amazingly well. Once again, Allie is a hard worker. She takes regular lessons, practices diligently and competed with Morgan and Emma in the Southwest Tour this summer. She needs to improve her consistency with her irons. When she does, she is capable of some really solid golf.”
Several others are competing to fill the No. 4-6 spots.
That group includes freshman Rebecca Angyal, sophomores Olivia Cadorini and Reese Vilchick, junior Alexis Kovesdi and senior Hannah Botzman.
The Blue Devils certainly have a different look this fall but they aren’t short on talent. Schuld is optimistic the 2018 version of the team can remain competitive but the goal is to continue to compete in every match and tournament.
“I never like to put limits on what the individual girls or the team is capable of accomplishing,” Schuld said. “All I stress to the girls is to work hard and have fun. We take each match or tournament as a chance to improve at something. Sometimes it is a personal best score, but it could also be fairways hit, putting, chipping, short game, or mental outlook. As those things become more consistent, this team could surprise a few people.”