The Belleville East Lancers have a new girls golf coach this fall.
But Marcus Barriger is hardly new to those who follow high school sports in Belleville and Southwestern Illinois.
A 2001 graduate of Belleville West and former minor league pitcher who was drafted by both the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the 33-year-old Barriger is taking over one of the premier girls golf programs in the Southwestern Conference.
And while East may not have a player the caliber of former Lancers standouts like state champion Ashley Freeman and state tournament qualifiers Jessica Smith and Kristi Tschudin, Barriger does have two players in senior co-captains Colette Thro and Ele Munie who should be leaders both on and off the course.
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“Both Colette and Ele have been very helpful in my first couple of months as coach. I lean on them a lot and I ask them a lot of questions in regards to different things and they take care of a lot of things as far as if the girls need equipment or anything for practice,’’ Barriger said. “I’ve been the bowling coach at Belleville East for five years, so I’ve coached girls sports before.
“Both are great to coach, but girls who bowl and girls who play golf are totally different kinds of athletes, just as football players and soccer players are different. But we’re having fun, the girls are working hard and improving as we go along here and I’m sure it will continue the rest of the season.’’
Barriger, who recently retired as a baseball player and manager after 16 years in the Mon-Clair League, will unveil his first Lancers squad Thursday at the Goalby-Haas Classic at St. Clair Country Club in Belleville.
And while Barriger is relying heavily on Thro and Munie as leaders, he’ll also depend on them as players to lead the way for the Lancers. Both players have the potential to break 40 on any given day.
“They’ve probably been in the low to mid 40s during qualifying. But there is no doubt in my mind that they have the abilty to shoot in the upper 30s each time they play,’’ Barriger said. “Colette is very quiet, but as a player she’s always in attack mode. She’s always ready to take advantage of her opportunities.
“Ele is just a very hard worker. She's one of the girls who was out here (Clinton Hill) I bet three or four times a week working on her game.’’
Senior Emily Eicholz, juniors Alissa Donato and Daphne Lane and sophomore Breanna Haas complete the Lancers top six players who will compete Thursday and later Saturday at the Mascoutah Invitational.
“I like coaching golf and the girls have been great to work with. They are determined to have a good year,’’ Barriger said. “I’m anxious to see how we play on Thursday and Saturday. It will give us a gauge on where we are and what we need to work on.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.