The West Linn girls' golf team lost its top two players from last year's squad, which qualified for the state tournament. This meant that, heading into the spring, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding a very young 2007 squad.
The good news for the Lions is that the team saw one of its largest turnouts in recent memory. But the varsity squad does not field a single senior and there is only one junior on the team.
'You never want to have to make cuts but there are just a lot of kids who want to play and that's a good sign,' coach Ron Wells said.
All of this indicates a bright future for West Linn girls golf but the team is not expected to suffer many growing pains this year. In fact, the Lions are expected to contend for one of the league's two berths in the state tournament once again.
In an early tournament held at Glendoveer, West Linn finished first, ahead of every Three Rivers League opponent except for Lake Oswego, which didn't compete in the match.
All five of the Lions' top golfers finished with scores in the 40s for nine holes.
One of the strengths of this year's team is its balance as there are 10 players who could compete on the varsity squad in any given event.
'We're going to have a lot of different line-ups. Each week the low two scores (from the previous tournament) will be safe and the other three will have to qualify. I think that competition keeps the girls working hard,' Wells said.
In the league's first official match, held last Monday at Oswego Lake Country Club, the Lions finished third, behind Lake Oswego and Clackamas and Wells was pleased with the results.
'I figured that we'd either have to nudge out Lake Oswego or Lakeridge (to get to state) and we beat one of them,' Wells said.
The majority of the match was played in heavy rain which was not conducive to low scores. Sophomore Brianne Ruiz was West Linn's low scorer, firing a 51.
Freshman Kelsey Prentice was close behind with a 52 and sophomore Lindsey Wickert, who was on the team last year, shot a 54.
Ellie Enderle, another freshman, shot a 60 while the team's lone junior, Chelsea Spitzer, shot a 67 to round out the scoring.
Lake Oswego is considered to be the team to beat in the league while Clackamas, Lakeridge and West Linn should all compete intensely for a state berth.
'After watching the competition, I don't see any reason why we couldn't take second,' Wells said.
Any success that comes to the Lions this year should only be a precursor for the coming years.
Not only will the Lions return all of this year's players, but a bumper crop of talented eighth graders is expected to come out for next year's team, meaning that West Linn could very quickly become a powerhouse in girls golf for years to come.
'If we don't make state this year, it could be the last year that happens for a while. Next year could really be fun,' Wells said.
The Lions play a number of tournaments at Stone Creek Golf Club, which is where the state tournament will be held again this year, giving the girls plenty of experience if they are fortunate enough to qualify for the tournament.