BELLEVILLE — The Belleville West Maroons enter the 2013 golf season with their goals clearly in mind and with enough good players to make them come true, hopefully.
After a mediocre regular season a year ago, the Maroons came within an eyelash of qualifying for the sectional tournament before settling for a fourth-place finish at the O'Fallon Class AA Regional.
That showing, along with the return of one of the top players in the Southwestern Conference in junior Mikaela Hickey and several other much-improved players, has coach Elaine Souders very optimistic heading into the season opening Mascoutah Invitational today at The Hills at McKendree.
"We didn't qualify, but to play the way we did that day and place fourth in the regional, I think has given us a lot of momentum heading into this year. I know I'm looking forward to carrying it over and I think our girls are as well,'' Souders said. "We've got Mikaela (Hickey) back and several of the other girls played tournaments and took lessons.
"We've improved and we're looking forward to a good year.''
An individual sectional tournament qualifier last season, Hickey will lead the way for a West team which also has quality players such as Maggie Arehart, Macy Copeland, Beth Dain, Andrea Mitchell, Carli Brown, Kelsey Gaby and Brooke Ingram, all of whom are capable of posting solid scores nearly every time out.
"Mikaela didn't just play a lot of golf, she played almost every day this summer and yes, she has improved in every area of the game. Especially with her consistency,'' Souders said. "She played in a number of tournaments, she went to camp -- I believe at Drake University -- and just put a tremendous amount of time in on her game.''
Arehart, Copeland, Brown and Mitchell were others who saw a lot of playing time on the Maroons' varsity a year ago.
"All of our top players have their own teaching professionals they work with and that's good in order to get the one-on-one attention they need to become better players,'' Souders said. "They're excited about the season and so am I.''
Other players vying for playing time on the Maroons' varsity include Macy Burk, Jessica Copeland, Madeline Perez, Kelly Shea, Claire Harter and Addy Mitchell.
Souders said her team has specific goals in mind for the season. One is obvious.
"We'd like to make it to the sectional as a team. That's one of the main goals and I know Mikaela (Hickey) has a goal of getting to the state finals,'' Souders said. "I would have to check with former coach Kathy (Baldus) about the last time West made it as a team. I know we haven't since I've been coaching.
"But we can't control what other teams shoot. All we can do is continue to work hard and improve as the season goes on. If we do that, we'll have a chance to advance."