Herald-News girls golf preview

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She’s made a name for herself. Now she’s aiming for a podium finish.

Lincoln-Way East’s Kelly Sterling returns for her junior season as one of the top players in Illinois. She finished 29th as a freshman in 2011. A season ago she finished 23rd at state, power the Griffins to an 11th-place state finish.

“The sky is the limit for Kelly,” East coach Mary McGivern said. “She’s so talented. She’s got the great demeanor and works endlessly on her game. She makes the game look so easy and effortless.”

Sterling is part of Illinois golf history. She sank a hole-in-one at the state meet — a par-3, 123-yard hole — becoming just the fourth player in the girls game to do so.

She believes some additional seasoning could keep her in contention for a state medal.

“I’ve been playing a lot this summer,” Sterling said. “My long game has improved a lot, and I feel like I’m adjusting to greens faster: the fast greens and the slow greens. I think that comes with more experience. It’s not something you can practice.

“I hope I can drop even lower, into the top 10 (at state),” she added. “We’ll see how it goes. I just hope to play my best because you can’t really control what other people do.”

East is the reigning SouthWest Suburban Blue champ but will head to the Red Division in a swap with Stagg. East loses four of its six postseason starters, but Karoline Pirko is back and should be a consistent No. 2 behind Sterling.

“The senior leadership from Karoline, she’s going to be someone that factors heavily into our season,” McGivern said.

“I’ve been practicing every day,” Pirko said. “I’m expecting a major jump in my scores this summer.”

McGivern also expects seniors Micaela Petrarca and Nicole Huss to have strong years for the Griffins.

So have the girls started to lean on Sterling, asking for advice on certain holes?

“They haven’t yet, but they might,” Sterling said with a laugh. “I would if I were them and wanted to get better. I’m open to giving advice.”

Pirko gave a reason why some might be hesitant.

“It’s a little intimidating to play with her,” Pirko said. “You want to strive to be like her.”

Golf scene loses some star power

Lincoln-Way West state-placer Alexis Biedryzki won’t be teeing off for the Warriors this season. Coach Tim Daly said that Biedryzki, who finished fourth last season as a sophomore, will forgo her junior campaign to focus on national tournaments. If she were to play, Biedryzki might be considered one of the favorites for the state crown.

TOP TEAMS

Lincoln-Way East: Standout Kelly Sterling had a hole-in-one in the state finals last season in finishing 23rd overall. She’ll look to get the Griffins back to state, where they finished 11th a year ago.

Providence: After advancing to the sectional round last season, the Celtics return a strong nucleus. Look out for Alyssa Newling, Annie Corso, Arianna Beller and Anna Goggins.

Lemont: The Indians look to build around varsity stalwarts Bridgett Lynn and Laura Ringo for a team that finished 10-2 a season ago in dual meets. Lynn posted a nine-hole average of 41.

TOP INDIVIDUALS (in alphabetical order)

Alex Catalano, Sr., Plainfield South; Bridget Lynn, Sr., Lemont; Alyssa Newling, Sr. Providence; Kelly Sterling, Jr., Lincoln-Way East; Kayla Garritson, Jr., Lockport; Milena Singletary, Jr., Joliet co-op; Carly Staser, Jr., Plainfield North.

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