LEMOORE — Coming off of a third consecutive Central Section title, the Tigers were back at Lemoore Golf Course on Wednesday preparing for the new season.
Unlike the 2017 team, which featured three seniors, this one has none. Lemoore juniors Ashley Alaniz and Victoria Sheldon will lead the way after contributing significantly to last season’s Division II championship team. They’re two of four returners, with the team sporting five new golfers.
“I like our team chemistry so far,” Kevin Roberts said. “I think that we’re going to be very young or inexperienced for sure. We’re probably going to struggle early in the year, but if they keep working hard the way they are, anything can happen toward the end of the year and we’ll see where we’re at.”
Roberts, entering his fourth season as the head coach of the girls golf team, said Alaniz and Sheldon are expected to be at the top of the ladder this season, including taking over the role as leaders. He said he wants the two righties to keep the others on track when it’s time to focus and be the first to congratulate them when they have a good round.
“I learned from the seniors last year how to lead because they really helped everyone out, and I just hope to help my team as much as they helped me,” Sheldon said.
Alaniz concurred by saying that not only do they have more responsibility as leaders, but being at the top of the ladder also has the added pressure of shooting well day in and day out.
“I feel like you have more responsibility being higher up on the ladder because people look up to you,” Alaniz said. “It’s kind of stressful, but at the same time it’s a good experience and it’s good to give an example to your peers.”
With a week of practice under their belt, Roberts is starting to get a feel for his team and who will fill out the rest of the ladder. The Tigers’ season opener is next Thursday against Sierra Pacific at Lemoore Golf Course at 2 p.m.
He said his biggest challenge currently isn’t teaching them how to play golf, but teaching them to believe in their ability to hit the ball consistently and in clutch situations.
“If I can get them to perform at a consistent level, I think we should have five or six decent scores,” Roberts said.
The goals remain the same in wanting to win the West Yosemite League, make the playoffs and win a Valley championship this season. But Roberts did admit that the team is “probably playing for next year” with the youth and newcomers they have.
As they practiced shooting from the bunker and putting on the green, Roberts gave instruction when needed, but also sat back and analyzed. He understands the team isn’t going to come together overnight, but believes they’re more than capable of playing well.
“If we finish in the top two in league I will be ecstatic,” Roberts said. “I have a feeling that Golden West and Redwood are going to be the teams to beat. If we can compete with them and stay right there with them, by the end of the year, I like our chances.”
In addition to their Division II title, the Tigers finished at the top of the West Yosemite League last season, but graduated their top two golfers. Replacing them won’t be easy, but that hasn’t deterred the team.
“I believe that our team is going to surprise some people because there are no seniors and our incoming [players] are doing very well,” Sheldon said. “I hope that we grow together as a team and shock some people.”