By Kyle Daubs

Can Charleston pull off the repeat?

Around the Apollo Conference girls, golf teams feature a potential two-way race for the title, at least if you look at the way-too-early rankings. 

Charleston defeated Effingham by nine strokes last season to win their first conference title in five years. Despite losing All-Apollo golfer Hannah Harpster to graduation, the team brings back four of its top five golfers, including All-Apollo selection Taryn Pearson and Stacey Zerbst. 

Effingham senior Ava Boehm figures to be the leading contender to win the Apollo this season. Boehm was the medalist last season after winning by seven strokes over runner-up Averie Bushue from Teutopolis, which is no longer in the conference. 

In third place, Mattoon graduate Callan Haldorsen led the Green Wave to a fourth-place finish in the conference, a stroke away from tying for third. Haldorsen’s sister, Berrit, figures to be a top contender for All-Apollo after finishing 14th last year, but head coach Natalie Ambuehl said she is still navigating the course of her team. 

“It is really too soon to compare ourselves to our competition. I have several returning who demonstrate great leadership skills,” Ambuehl said. “We are young, no current seniors on varsity at this time. We had a good showing at the Charleston scramble. I am still waiting to see who my standouts might be.”

T-Town finished third in the Apollo but was only in the conference on a one-year basis due to the pandemic and the conference schedule. With T-Town out, Mattoon will likely challenge Mahomet and Taylorville for a top-3 spot in the conference, but Ambuehl said the team needs to find consistency. 

“We won’t know that until we get a few more matches under our belt, and even then one’s golf game can change like the weather in Illinois,” said Ambuehl. “Great one day and  struggle the next, so we just have to see. I am looking forward to a promising season.”

Mount Zion features a young squad that returns many players from last year’s seventh-place finish in the Apollo. Mount Zion is led by juniors Emma Espinoza and Kennedy Highley, and sophomores Peyton Graves and Gabby Daniels. 

“Mount Zion girls golf is very young this year,” said Braves coach Jay Driscoll. “We are led by Emma Espinoza, a long-hitting player that we are very excited about her progress coming into this season, while Kennedy Highly is an athletic lefty.”

Lincoln finished last in the conference but returns All-Apollo senior Allison Woolard. 

Predicted Apollo Rankings

1. Charleston 

2. Effingham

3. Mattoon

4. Taylorville

5. Mahomet-Seymour

6. Mount Zion

7. Lincoln