Beginning her fourth year as head coach of the Fort Dodge girls golf program, Kristi Clark will have a solid nucleus to work with this season.
Juniors Kylie Kuiper, Payton Christy, Jozlynn Porter, Ciara Sturm and sophomore Alex Hays are the five letterwinners back in the mix for the Dodgers.
"I have very high hopes and expectations for this season," Clark said. "These girls have come a long way since they were freshmen. Kylie was low (scorer) for us last year. Payton has a really good work ethic, and Jozlynn, Alex and Ciara all continue to improve, too."
Last spring, FDSH placed fourth at a Class 5A regional final behind state qualifiers Cedar Falls and West Des Moines Valley. Among the highlights for the Dodgers in 2013 was a dual victory over Mason City and a Storm Lake Invitational title.
Now, Fort Dodge must fill the void left by departed seniors Angie Ellendson and Samantha Berning.
"We made some huge strides last season even winning a couple of duals and invites," said Clark. "I feel we're definitely moving in the right direction. This darn weather has just made it very challenging again to get out and play holes to see exactly where we stand."
Juniors - Payton Christy, Kylie Kuiper, Chloee Narber, Jozlynn Porter, Ciara Sturm.
Sophomores - Payton Crouch, Emma Gibson, Alex Hays.
Freshmen - Elizabeth Gollob, Madison Gordon, Emily Gosselin.
(Start times 3:30 p.m. unless noted)
April 14 - at West Des Moines Dowling; 17 - at Marshalltown Invitational, 10 a.m.; 21 - at West Des Moines Valley, 1 p.m.; 22 - Marshalltown; 24 - at Ankeny Invitational, 9 a.m.; 28 - at Ames Invitational, 1 p.m.; 29 - at Mason City.
May 6 - at Ames; 15 - St. Edmond; 17 - at Storm Lake Invitational, 9 a.m.; 19 - host Fort Dodge Invitational, 10 a.m.; 22 - at CIC Conference meet in Mason City, 10 a.m. 27 - at regional meet, TBA.
Rounding out the rest of the FDSH roster are junior Chloee Narber, sophomores Payton Crouch and Emma Gibson and freshmen Elizabeth Gollob, Madison Gordon and Emily Gosselin.
"I have three freshmen that will be counted on to step up in the next couple of years, who all have some good potential," Clark said. Golf is a unique sport in that you don't have a middle school program to support you. We do have a new golf pro this year in Judd Gibb, and we're excited to get our junior feeder program up and running."
Clark knows the Dodgers will be tested each time out in the CIC Conference.
"It's always good for our girls to see that strong competition to give us a better idea of where we're at," said Clark. "We play St. Edmond this year, too, and it's always fun going against that local competition. I encourage community members to come out and watch us if they get a chance."
Fort Dodge opens its season at West Des Moines Dowling on Monday. The Dodgers welcome Marshalltown for their home debut on April 22, while the FDSH invitational is set for May 19.