PUNXSUTAWNEY — The 2011 Punxsutawney girls' golf team is hard at work preparing for its first tournament of the season, the Bolton Tournament in State College Aug. 22, and head coach Katie Irwin likes what she sees so far.
She also knows why she likes what she sees: Hard work by her players to prepare throughout the summer.
"I've seen a lot of work from these girls during the off-season, and it's showing now that we've turned in some scores," she said.
Punxsy lost three seniors from last year's squad, which went 14-3, but eight players will still be returning.
Punxsy will be led by the team's only senior, and team captain, Marisa Stockdale, and will include three juniors: Audrianna Delacour, Caroline Dunkel and Sarah London.
Four sophomores, Lauren Giavedoni, Julia Martino, Kasey Prescott and Haley Schepis, and one freshman, Lauren McGee, will round up the group, but despite the fact that the majority of her players are underclassmen, Irwin is excited about the depth of ability her players possess.
She credits the girls' drive to succeed to an atypical element: Camaraderie.
"All of the girls get along so well," she said. "It's impressive to me that they are so competitive with each other, yet they remain such close friends, too. That healthy competition has really helped them improve since last year."
Although practice just started Monday, Irwin has noted good things about several of her players.
"In this first week of practice, Marisa, Caroline, Sarah and Lauren Giavedoni have already turned in their all-time low scores," she said. "It looks like Caroline and Marisa will be fighting for first in the line-up for our first match, with Sarah and Lauren close behind them."
The promise doesn't end with her top four players as of now, though.
"Audrianna and Julia have put in a lot of work this summer, and I look for them to be shaking up the line-up for us soon," she said. "Kasey and Haley are already showing great improvement from last year and are eager to fit into those top six spots, too."
With the team taking six players to each tournament, healthy competition at the top is important, but the level of competition in the middle and bottom sections of the team is the difference between a mediorce and a winning team.
And the upperclassmen can't get complacent, either, with the younger players, such as freshman McGee, hungry to take their spots at the tournaments.
"Lauren is our newest addition, and she is already showing a lot of potential," Irwin said. "Her scores have been great, and we may even see her in the varsity line-up early in the season."
In some cases, the thought of changing your line-up is bad news for the coach, but in Irwin's case, it means there is healthy competition from top to bottom.
"I just can't say enough about how hard this group of girls has worked in the off-season," she said. "I look for the line-up to be changing constantly. Our team has so much depth this year; that's what will make us a hard team to beat."
With all that promise, hopes are high in the girls' golf camp.
"I look forward to this season, because I truly believe that we have the potential to go undefeated. The girls have their hearts set on a district win, and with the effort I've seen so far this year, I think we'll be ready to bring it home in October."