The Belleville West Maroons proved to be one of the surprise golf teams late in the 2014 season as it posted a top five finish in the regular-season ending Mascoutah Invitational then earned a Class 3A sectional berth by placing second in the regional.
Now in his 15th season as coach, Clayton Fisher’s squad opened play Thursday at the Goalby-Haas Invitational without a dominant No. 1 player but with a team that could once again be a factor by the time the postseason rolls around in early October.
“We’re not a team which is going to shoot a low number each time out, but we do have the ability to play well and have a good season. It just depends on how we play each night,’’ Fisher said. “In the Southwestern Conference, Edwardsville is clearly the team to beat. But after that, I think it’s pretty wide open to where on any given night, anybody can beat anybody. It just depends on who plays well that match.
“We were a team a year ago which got better as the season went on. I think we’re very similar this year,” Fisher added. “I think our goal should be to improve as the season goes on. If we do, we’ll be fine.’’
The Maroons graduated their top player from a year ago in Austin Cleveland, but return senior David Crosby and junior Sam Bernosky to lead the way. Crosby played No. 2 behind Cleveland a year ago.
“David played on our very strong squad two years ago and he and Austin (Cleveland) both shot some very low scores in big tournaments that season,’’ Fisher said. “He’s a kid with no major strengths as a player, but he has no weaknesses either. He’s just a very solid player with a good all-around game. He’s battling a little bit of a wrist injury right now, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the better players in the area.
“Sam (Bernosky) is a young man who played at the bottom of our varsity roster last year, but he’s really improved through a lot of hard work and tournament play over the summer,” Fisher added. “That’s what you need to do. He’s also gotten a lot bigger and stronger.’’
One of the top-ranked students academically in the Class of 2016 at West, senior Zach Hanusek is the Maroons’ No. 3 player and competing on the varsity team for the second straight season. Michael Jenkins and Devin Sauer round out the top five golfers for West.
“Devin (Sauer) is probably the most-improved player we have on this team to be honest about it,’’ Fisher said. “Zach (Hanusek) is a very smart young man who played about the middle of lineup a year ago for us as well. He’s a player who will be right around 38-42 all season. He’s not spectacular. He’s just very steady.’’
Sophomore Zach Laing is battling senior Erik Faulkner and junior William Bischoff for the No. 6 spot in the order.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.