- September 14, 2018
Between graduation and the opening of Windermere High, there may not be two programs at West Orange High that have been hit as hard as the Warriors boys and girls golf teams.
Both teams went to state last fall — the girls finished as state runners-up and the boys placed 10th. Of those 10 golfers who competed at the state tournament in Howey-in-the-Hills, just three were back on campus when school started Monday.
“Are we shooting for a district (title), regional (championship) and possibly going to state? Always — at West Orange, we’re always doing that."
— Scott Baker, coach
It marks a new era for the program, one where both teams will be coached by Scott Baker — the boys coach for the past four seasons — and where there will be a blending of maintaining a tradition of high expectations with the reality of so many new faces in new roles.
“Are we shooting for a district (title), regional (championship) and possibly going to state? Always — at West Orange, we’re always doing that,” Baker said. “However, reality is a big part of life, too. We can’t sit here and say, ‘If we don’t make it to states, we’re failures.’”
The Warriors girls team, which came within a dozen strokes of a state championship last fall, returns just one varsity starter — Michelle Bagsic, a senior who placed 27th as an individual last fall. Maria Loza and Aly Moya each graduated, and Janelle Silguero and Sonia Mistry are now at Windermere High.
West Orange’s boys team returns two players from 2016: Dylan Bittenbender, a senior who placed 28th at state last fall, and Dominic Tiani, a senior who finished tied for 80th. Grant Drogosch, who placed fourth at state as a sophomore, is at Windermere, as is Shuhey Wada, and Kamaren Sandhu graduated.
Because of these departures, the starting five for each team will look dramatically different this fall.
Players who played junior varsity last fall will be asked not only to make the jump to varsity but also assume top roles (Kassie Bartkovich, for example, will be the girls team’s No. 2). Or there’s Kenneth “K.C.” Andrews, who was debatably the boys eighth or ninth best golfer in 2016, who is now going to be the No. 3.
“It’s definitely exciting for them,” Baker said. “Before, there was no pressure, they’d just go out there and play JV. Now they’re playing varsity.”
Of course, not only will there be pressure on the new additions to step up, but also accomplished returners such as Bittenbender and Bagsic will take another big step forward as seniors.
“This year, talent-wise, it’s not that we can’t get there. But it’s going to take a much bigger effort from a lot of kids that haven’t done it before.”
— Scott Baker, coach
The Warriors will face off against some of their former teammates who are now Wolverines on a few occasions, with the girls team playing Windermere for the first time Aug. 21 and the boys team facing the Wolverines in Windermere’s Invitational tournament Aug. 28.
For now, Baker and his two teams are focused on taking the game one day a time, with improvement and repetition as top priorities as the season gets underway.
“This year, talent-wise, it’s not that we can’t get there,” Baker said. “But it’s going to take a much bigger effort from a lot of kids that haven’t done it before.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]