Kokomo’s girls golf team broke through last season to win the Western Sectional at Chippendale G.C. for the first time since 2007.

The Wildkats are poised for another big season with the top three players from their sectional lineup all back. That group is led by senior Kiah Parrott, who is one of the state’s best players. The Ball State recruit is a two-time all-state player and a two-time state qualifier.

“She’s ready to go,” Kokomo coach Andy Carpenter said. “The pressure is off her this year for choosing a college. She’s looking to have fun this season.”

Parrott tied for 18th at the 2018 state meet.

Senior Haley Salinas and junior Molly Mavrick also return to the lineup.

“Haley worked hard over the summer. Molly is pretty stable. She’s one of those who starts off slow and then gains confidence in the swing technique,” Carpenter said.

Sophomore Layla Andrysiak, senior Emily Fuller and freshman Elizabeth Lytle are vying for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots. Junior Emma Hawkins and freshman Kamryn Hahn also are in the mix for playing time.

In last season’s sectional, Kokomo posted a score of 352 to edge Western (357), Northwestern (358) and Tipton (360) in one of the most competitive multi-team battles for the sectional title in recent memory.

Carpenter sees those same teams all contending again this year.

“Hopefully it’s just as exciting as it was last year,” he said.

Kokomo opened Monday when it played in the Harrison Invitational. The Kats took fifth in the 11-team field. Parrott tied for second individually. Next up for the Kats is their invitational Saturday at Chippendale.

The following are looks at the other Howard County teams.

WESTERN

The Panthers graduated Nos. 1 and 2 players Trina Gill and Torrie Smith, but return the rest of their lineup.

Juniors Ella Williamson and Mady Smith and sophomore Kylee Duncan helped the 2018 Panthers finish second in the Hoosier Conference, second in the Western Sectional and sixth in the Lafayette Jeff Regional.

“Ella and Mady are going to play 1 and 2 all year. They may flip flop some, they’re that close. And Kylee is a solid 3,” longtime coach Steve Hoppes said.

From there, the rest of the lineup is undecided. Seniors Megan Hill, Hannah Delrymple, Mattie Helton and Sydney Wilson, sophomore Chloe Barker and freshmen Ava Williamson and Natalie Nutt are candidates to see time.

“They’re pretty similar. They’re all in the low 50s,” Hoppes said of the group. “I need to get someone in the high 40s.”

Hoppes is hoping to develop depth and see the team reach its potential.

“I think we can go to regional [by finishing in the top three at sectional]. I can’t tell you we can win sectional, but I think we can get in the top three and advance. That’s what we always shoot for,” he said.

The Panthers are in the midst of their typically busy opening week. After playing today in Benton Central’s invite, they’ll have their first 18-hole tournament Saturday when they play in Twin Lakes’ invite.

NORTHWESTERN

The Tigers return senior Kristin Piel and sophomore Audrey Koetter from their postseason lineup. The Tigers finished third in the Western Sectional and ninth in the Lafayette Jeff Regional.

“We graduated four of our top six from last year so we’re pretty much a brand-new team,” coach Kurt Koetter said. “We’re young — we have one senior. We have four juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen.”

After playing No. 2 last season, Audrey Koetter is the Tigers’ top returning player. In addition to Piel, junior Mollie Habig also returns with some varsity experience.

From there, the lineup will be a work in progress. Freshman Miranda Padfield and junior Leah Parrott are the early candidates for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots with junior Emma Barnett and sophomores Makenzee Westbrook and Alexa Manis in the picture as well.

“I like the competition,” Kurt Koetter said of the Nos. 4-7 positions. “They’re all pretty equal so we could have musical chairs with those positions, but I think the competition will hopefully bring success to those players.

“I’m pretty excited about this group. We’re young, but it looks like we have a nice core and it’s exciting to have four freshmen coming out. I think we’ll be decent this year, especially for our area.”

The Tigers will shoot to improve on last season’s third-place finishes in the Hoosier Conference and sectional.

EASTERN

The Comets return good experience with seniors Gwyn Zirkle and Alexandra Martin and junior Marra Shook back from their sectional lineup.

Senior Karlie Burkhart and sophomore Rebecca Guthrie also return for the Comets and freshman Alexa Maurer and sophomore Emily Giles are promising newcomers.

“I’m definitely thinking we can win the [Hoosier Heartland Conference] this year,” coach Ryan Zirkle said. “We’ve always had a girl or two that’s been good enough [to shoot solid scores], but this year we have four or five girls who are shooting about the same score. If they can continue to compete with each other, they’ll all improve. I really think we have a shot this year.”

Gwyn Zirkle is the No. 1 player after splitting time at the position last year. From there, the Comets lineup is not solidified.

“Right now, [Martin] and Marra are fighting for 2 and then Alexa and Rebecca are fighting for 4. And I’d throw Emily in there as well. There’s just six or seven girls for five spots,” Ryan Zirkle said.

The Comets opened Wednesday. Their next outing is Kokomo’s invitational on Saturday at Chippendale.

TAYLOR

The Titans return senior Lilly Parker to lead their lineup. After Parker, the Titans have four newcomers — senior Hannah Morgan and sophomores Emma Good, Olivia Keith and Kayla Martin.

“We’ve been out for nine holes one time,” coach Laura Worthington said Wednesday. “Lilly shot a 51 and then I had a girl at 56, two girls at 65 and one at 72. I’m optimistic with two in the 50s and two in the 60s. For their first time out, I was happy.”

Worthington noted she recruited the newcomers from her classroom last school year.

“I preached golf and preached golf and I got a couple of them to come out and try it. Their swings look nice, it’s just a matter of getting out and playing more,” she said.

“My three sophomores said they’d stick with it through their senior year and Lilly has talked to them. She’s been with me for three years. She’s had fun at it and told them they’ll have fun at it.”

Taylor opens today against Clinton Central at the Frankfort Commons.

Bryan Gaskins is the Tribune's sports editor. He may be reached at bryan.gaskins@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8567.

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Bryan Gaskins is the Kokomo Tribune's sports editor. He joined the sports department in a full-time capacity in September 1999 and moved into the editor's role in January 2010.