With five out of six returning starters and almost enough players for three rotations, Van Buren boys? head golf coach Tony Vandegriff is ready for his third year at the Warriors? helm.
Vandegriff will have a rotation of nine that include seniors Austin Giberson and Tommy Laughlin, juniors Jacob Plecker, Luke Baker and Brycen Starnes, sophomores Jonah Heckenberg and Tony Davison and freshman Clayton Bruckman and Lane Davis.
The Warriors? coach spoke with The Ledger about his team and their chances.
How are your numbers this year?
Tony Vandegriff: We have 16 kids out, so we have good depth.
I have six kids right now shooting 46 and below and another three that are pretty close to breaking the 50 mark.
16 is a lot, especially at a small school.
Vandegriff: Yeah, that?s really good numbers. There?s not a lot of junior varsity action in our area because of numbers.
A lot of schools only have in that six to 10 range for number of golfers.
Where do you feel you fall in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference?
Vandegriff: Well we have a big meet with the north and the south altogether and my first year, two years ago, we got sixth. We finished fifth last year, and this year I look for us to maybe crack the top four. Central Lee is really good. They have five seniors that have been there since they were freshmen and thank god they?re seniors this year.
They are going to be really good and have failed to step up in districts the last few years, so they should be a state qualifying team, I think.
Winfield-Mt. Union has the best kid in the conference in Kaleb Hagge, maybe the state for the last two years in a row, maybe three, so they are pretty good.
Notre Dame has a couple of good young kids, so we?re in the mix. We?re a top four or five type of team.
What do you need to jump into the top tier?
Vandegriff: I need a couple of kids that can go in the 70?s. We have the potential, it?s just not there consistently right now. To get to that next level, we?d need to be a lot more consistent, with one or two kids who could go low for us.
Who are some of the student-athletes you lean on?
Vandegriff: I have five kids back from last year?s team. Jacob Plecker is leading us this spring so far. He?s a junior that made it to districts last year. Austin Giberson has played with me for three years as well. Baker, Laughlin and Heckenberg round out my five returners.
As a coach, what are you focusing on teaching the kids?
Vandegriff: We?re really stressing the short game right now. I think that?s really important. Obviously, not only in high school golf, but in the pros. That?s where you?re going to make your shots and score. Kids that can get up and down and have a good short game, that?s going to really help out the team down the road.
Where is your confidence level overall?
Vandegriff: I feel that we can have another solid year. We made it to districts my first year, and last year we got third. I thought we could have been there but Mid-Prairie kind of upset us. We will have a really tough sectional again this year. We go to Williamsburg and they have always been good in 3A and that?s who Fairfield has always had to battle and now we get them. Plus Central Lee will be with us, but I think we can get in the top three and advance to districts and see how it goes.