A great finish to the 2016 season and a handful of strong returners from that squad has the Streator High School golf team — with Dustin Masley assuming varsity coaching duties and Rory Bedeker coming on as assistant/JV coach — expecting another memorable fall on the links in 2017.
"Obviously, we ended on a pretty high note last year, winning the (Interstate Eight) Conference Tournament and a regional championship (for the first time since 1980)," said Masley, who was a JV coach in the program before taking over for former varsity coach Beau Doty. "We have almost everybody back, so our expectations are pretty high.
"We put it on (the players) at the end of last season to get out there and keep playing and try to repeat and maybe even improve on what they did last year. We'd like to win the conference tournament again, we'd like to win another regional, and maybe we can add the regular-season conference title as well."
A quintet of returnees will lead the way, starting with junior Grant Mascal.
Mascal became the first SHS boys golfer in five years to advance to the IHSA State Meet after claiming all-conference and regional runner-up honors earlier, with his 10th-grade campaign capped off by being named The Times Boys Golfer of the Year.
"We're obviously expecting big things out of him," Masley said.
Mascal is far from the only proven low-scorer on the Bulldogs roster, though.
Fellow juniors Cam Anderson-Pflazgraf ("Another strong player, we're looking on him to build on last year," Masley said) and Cole Holloway ("He got hot at the end of last year and won the conference tournament championship") as well as senior Nick Yanello ("Definitely a consistent scorer for us") all made The Times All-Area Honor Roll after strong falls a year ago. Senior Jared Strabala ("Jared's been hitting the ball well") rounds out the upperclassmen expected to play varsity.
A pair of underclassmen — freshman Jacob Magana and sophomore Austin Fairall — have been competing for varsity spots as well on the six-man scorecard, with Masley saying, "Those two are going to duke it out for one of those last spots. They're both capable."
While there will not be a full Lady Bulldogs team, a pair of young ladies return and will compete. They will be junior Marie Jenson ("She just missed sectionals and put in a lot of work over the summer," Masley said) and sophomore Haley Dimmig ("She showed lots of improvement last year, and hopefully can build on that this year.")
Streator is slated to open the season Wednesday at the Eastwood against visiting Eureka.