By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – After six straight sectional championships, after back-to-back appearances in the IHSAA state finals, after losing three superstars at the top of the lineup over that time frame, Bedford North Lawrence golf will morph into a different form in 2019.
The Stars might lack star power, but they have three returning starters as the nucleus to continue their success. Those juniors – the elder statesmen on a seven-player roster with no seniors – will be counted on for constant and consistent performances.
Olivia Sanders, who won two City titles during the summer, will join forces with Addyson Bailey and Ashley Chase for the backbone of the new-look Stars. BNL coach Aaron Sanders must find replacements for All-State standout Taylor Norman, veteran Carly Stigall and Taylor Chase.
“We have to count four scores, and we have three solid players with a lot of experience,” Sanders said. “All three need to be pretty special for us to have a chance to compete like we did last year.”
The most important question to answer will be determining who fills out the fourth and fifth spots. Kennedy Blair made several varsity starts last season, but the final position will be a work in progress.
“It’s going to be a process through the whole season,” Sanders said. “If we can get to the conference tournament and have a fifth score we can count on, we’ll be pretty happy.”
The uncertainty at the bottom of the lineup means added pressure for the top. Sanders, who posted a pair of career-best 74s while winning the Women’s City, is ready for those expectations, even if that added weight can cause the opposite effect.
“After shooting 74, people know I can do that,” she said. “And they expect it. So I have to shoot really low scores. I just keep calm and play one shot at a time.”
That mindset got the Stars back to the state finals last year. They had to wade through a rainy regional at Country Oaks to qualify in the third spot. That experience, and the ninth-place finish in the state, is a solid foundation.
“I expect good things,” Bailey said. “The experience gives us big confidence and determination. It’s stuff to look forward to.”
“They were so young, I don’t think they realized how special it was,” Sanders said while reviewing last year’s run. “I’m a realist, and I know what we’re capable of.
“We have to get better. If we can get all three of those players coming back to be a scorer in the 70s every time, that would be ideal. With the scores we had, with three players coming back, they know what it’s about and what it takes to get there. We want to win the sectional, we’d like to win the conference. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible.”
BNL will open the campaign on Monday at Bloomington South.