It could be a Coles County clash for the Apollo Conference girls golf title.

The Trojans won the Apollo Conference by three strokes last season to win the title a second year in a row.

In order to three-peat, the team will have to push past the losses of three key golfers. The Green Wave, meanwhile, return both of their All-Apollo golfers and were just six strokes away from winning in what was a rebuilding season. 

Charleston lost All-Apollo golfer Stacey Zerbst, who placed second in the conference. The team also lost Rileigh Babbs and former All-Apollo golfer Taryn Pearson. However, the team returns Madeline Sanders, who made All-Apollo with a seventh-place finish, as well as Delaney Meister, who came around as a consistent backend scorer. Both Sanders and Meister will be seniors.

MHS coach Natalie Ambuehl said that “it’s too early to tell” who the favorite for the conference will be. But based on how her team progressed last season, we should expect a major progression from the Green Wave. The team featured no seniors and had potentially the best one-two punch at the top of the scoring card in Blair Powers and Berit Haldorsen. 

Haldorsen returned as a senior and placed sixth, while Powers had a sensational freshman season that saw her shoot to a third-place finish. Powers could be in the mix for the medalist conversation but will have two strong individuals to golf against. 

Defending champion Ainsley Winters of Mahomet-Seymour will look to defend her title. Winters had a great junior campaign that also featured winning a Regional Championship. She will be pushed by senior Sophia Robinson of Taylorville, who placed fourth last season. Robinson advanced to the sectional 

“I feel that three teams have a legitimate shot at the conference title in Mattoon, Charleston, and Mahomet-Seymour (not in any particular order),” said Taylorville coach Jeff Hill. “They always field strong teams and are fundamentally good. As far as the Tornadoes go, we are a mix of two senior returnees and four underclassmen with little experience. Senior Kaydee Prose has worked hard on her game over the summer as has sophomore, Laura Wayman. Both could be a pleasant surprise for me this year. I don’t think we will be a title threat, but as an individual expect big things from Sophia Robinson.”

Taylorville placed fifth last season and was quite a few strokes from fourth-place finisher Effingham. Head coach Jerry Trigg returns his top two golfers, which includes senior Ella Niebrugge, who was one stroke away from placing All-Apollo. 

“I don’t remember much about many of the teams but I do remember that Charleston and Mattoon will be strong contenders for the conference title,” said Effingham coach Jerry Trigg. “ Marah Kirk and Ella Niebrugge are our 2 seniors we will rely on to lead us in scoring. Elena Niebrugge (junior) is expected to be a consistent scorer for us as well.”

Lincoln placed sixth in the conference and featured a new coach in John Andrews. His team will feature a ton of youth. 

“We have three sophomores and two freshmen on the team this year,” said Andrews. “We have one returning player, Emma Baker, a sophomore. We are definitely a young team that needs to play and learn how to compete. Our goals are to learn the game as we move through the season and hopefully have a state qualifier.”

Last Year’s Results

Charleston (391): Stacey Zerbst 91, Madeline Sanders 98, Rileigh Babbs 100, Delaney Meister 102, Taryn Pearson 111, Tesa Brown 125

Mahomet-Seymour (394): Ainsley Winters 88, Kayla McKinney 96, Maddy Clark 101, Gaby Davis 109, Emma Dallas 118, Sydney Carleton 135

Mattoon (397): Blair Powers 94, Berit Haldorsen 97, Marley Van Hoveln 100, Cardigan Hyland 106, Piper Sanders 106, Julia Morton 121

Effingham (419): Ella Niebrugge 100, Marissa Allie 105, Marah Kirk 106, Elena Niebrugge 108, Anna Hirtzel 112, Emilie Vincent 136

Taylorville (472): Sophia Robinson 95, Morgan Wright 99, Kaydee Prose 130, Laura Wayman 148

Lincoln (476): Allison Woolard 105, Emma Baker 115, Elly Martinez 127, Julia Guzzardo 129, Emma Boyd 137

Mount Zion (488): Emma Espinoza 109, Peyton Graves 121, Gabby Daniels 124, Lydia Trump 134, Avery Kyburz 137, Joelie Shafer 143

Apollo Golfers to Watch

Ainsley Winters (Mahomet-Seymour) Winters won the News-Gazette Girls Golfer of the Year Award last season. She was a Regional champion that is a strong candidate to defend her individual Apollo title. 

Blair Powers (Mattoon) – As a freshman, she didn’t let the moment get too big for her and gave Mattoon a huge lift to third place by finishing third individually. If Powers claimed medalist this season, nobody would be surprised. 

Kayla McKinley (Mahomet-Seymour) – McKinley placed fifth at the conference meet last season and returns as a senior. McKinley could be in the mix for the top-3 at the Apollo this season. 

Berit Haldorsen (Mattoon) – Haldorsen wanted to make a push towards being a top golfer last year. She did that. Now, as a senior, she could help the team finish at the top.

Madeline Sanders (Charleston) – Sanders has been in the top-4 for the varsity the last two seasons. That included helping the Trojans qualify for state as a team, where she was the second-best golfer in the playoffs. 

Sophia Robinson (Taylorville) – After placing fourth by one stroke, there is plenty of reason to believe that Robinson can be in the mix for a top-3 spot at the conference this season.