MANSFIELD – There are only two state tournament berths available for all of the Division I girls golf teams in the Northwest District.
Lexington, with the potential to have its best team ever, is hoping to grab one of them.
Ashland, the defending district champ, is probably banking on seizing the other.
It would be hard to bet against the Arrows, bidding to make it to state for the fourth year in a row after finishing eighth, fourth and sixth, respectively, the last three seasons.
They lost their No. 1 player, Anna Watson, now competing at Eastern Michigan. But Ashland returns four starters, led by senior Kira Moore, the new No. 1, and junior Klaira Paramore. Both were first team all-district last year.
Moore, who has an 18-hole average of 77 and was three-under after her first five tournaments this season, is looking to make it four-for-four in state appearances. So is Lexington senior Mandy Ruminski, which makes their rivalry so special.
Ruminski finished sixth at state last year for Lex, carding a 70-74-144, four strokes better than the year before when she was playing for Shelby, and finished one stroke short of matching the co-state champions.
Before transferring to Lex last year, Ruminski helped Shelby to back-to-back state runner-up finishes in DII.
“This year and next, we’re going to be really strong,” Lex coach Mike Kathrein said. “The big surprise is our three sophomores: Hannah Smith, Trynity Wolfe and Hannah Whitney.
“Hannah (Smith) cut 20 strokes off her average. That’s the difference. Amanda (Ruminski) can’t get much better. She’s one stroke better than a year ago.
“When you’re already awesome,” he added, “it’s hard to improve that much.”
Lainey Kathrein, the coach’s daughter, made news last season as a sophomore when she made a hole-in-one, or double eagle, on the par 4, 264-yard 18th hole at Brookside in Ashland. She’s been sick much of this season, at one point losing eight pounds. And she wasn’t very big to begin with.
Senior Alisa Wolfe is the other veteran in Lex’s lineup.
“Once (Lainey) gets healthy, if our three sophomores keep doing what they’re doing, we’ll be able to be real competitive,” Kathrein said.
After last week’s George Valentine Invitational at Brookside, Lex and Ashland had seen each other six times in tournaments, with each team finishing ahead of the other three times. The gap, though, was significant at the Valentine Invite, with Lex finishing 21 strokes behind the third-place Arrows in the 18-team field.
Ruminski was medalist with a 1-under 70, with Moore two shots back at 72. The next best Lex score was a 92, while Ashland got a 78 from Paramore and an 83 from senior Sarah Anderson. The other veteran in Ashland’s lineup is senior Livia Sponsler.
Anderson is just rounding into form after an injury. The Valentine Invite was only her second tournament of the year.
“I think she’s going to give us scores in the low 80s and we’ve got our No. 1 and 2 girls scoring in the 70s,” first year head coach Tom Marquette said.
Sounds like a recipe for success.
Marquette, a former athlete and retired administrator for Ashland, spent one year as an assistant coach for Nancy Noble before she decided to retire. When her assistant, Dan Priest, became the head coach of the boys team in 2019, that created the opening filled by Marquette
“I just loved (being an assistant), but at the end of the year she said ‘This is my last year,'” Marquette said. “I’m like wait a minute. I signed up to be the assistant coach, not the head coach. But I said I’ll do it.”
Ashland and Lex will see each other again Monday in the Lex Elite Invitational at Westbrook Country Club.
Two other area programs that responded to a News Journal request for team information were Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference rivals Ontario and Galion.
Mike Ellis is in his first year as Ontario’s head coach and inherits a roster that starts with sophomore Brooklyn Adkins, a district qualifier last year.
Juniors Samantha Fraley, Brooklyn Wharton and Maddie Seibel complement Adkins, along with freshman Anzaya Estep.
Consistency, said Ellis, will be the key for all of his girls.
At Galion, golf had been on hiatus for five years before returning in 2019. This year’s squad includes four lettermen and three new golfers for coach Alan Conner.
The veterans are junior Missy Vonhoupe and sophomores Julia Conner, Ellexia Ratcliff and Izzie Willacker. Sophomore Ava Niedermier and freshmen Addison Reed and Destany Palaisa are the newcomers.