First things first, head coach Phil Heflin says, the Lions need to take care of business during the regular season, beat who they are supposed to all the while undertaking some new challenges in the form of more Division I opponents.
“(The season has started) very well. We’re getting ready for league play and we’ve already played in a few tournaments finishing in the middle of the pack,” Heflin said. “But we finally have gotten our team one through six together for the first time all year for our match against Western Brown (on Aug. 23) and it was a rousing success.”
In that first league match against the Broncos, New Richmond thoroughly dominated their SBC-American rivals 163-221, led by senior leader and returning district qualifier Austin Wells.
Wells, who leads the team with a 38.0 average, is among the top players in the city and Heflin expects him to lead the way into another postseason charge.
“(Austin) is a solid senior contributor and a First Team All-Conference selection last year,” Heflin said.
Just seven matches into the season, the Lions stand at 5-2 and they are just now getting into the swing of things with their completed roster. New Richmond is loaded with experienced players, including five seniors.
Aside from Wells, New Richmond will rely on Evan McKinley, Henry Heidlage, Erik Hermann and David Ohntrup to lead the four sophomores who round out the Lions’ roster.
Leading the group of underclassmen in Chris Mazzaro who has the second-best average on the team behind Wells with a 38.6.
“Our experience as a team will help us to try and win the league again this year,” Heflin said. “We want to place at least four or five guys on the First Team All-League. Ultimately, we want to win the league championship and then also qualify for districts as a team even though we’re in Division I. If we can’t do it as a team, we want to get as many individuals there as we can.”
New Richmond was bumped up to Division I last year by four kids, but Heflin is embracing the challenge by scheduling some more difficult matches in hopes of showing his team what they are up against.
“We played in the Granville Invitational up in Columbus (on Aug. 10),” Heflin explained. “It was a really good tournament and our first of the year. We got to play some bigger schools who are golf powerhouses from up north of us and the Columbus area.
“We’re looking forward to playing Milford and Glen Este and Anderson coming up. With all the seniors, we bumped the schedule up this year to make it a little tougher for these guys to get ready for Division I sectionals… We might as well play the teams now and see how we stack up.”
It’s been so far, so good for the Lions over the first few weeks of the year and as they prepare to get into the meat of their season, Heflin is confident with their mix of senior leadership and raw talent, the Lions will be ready once the sectional tournament rolls around.
The Lions will have their first SBC match on Thursday, Sept. 6 at Deer Track and will have one each week until the end of the month.
The sectional tournament is scheduled for Oct. 2 at Glenview where the Lions will try to achieve their preseason goal of qualifying as a team for the districts at Weatherwax.