The team that showed up on the first day of practice was nearly unrecognizable to West Fargo Sheyenne girls golf coach Dan Wolf.
Led by Class A state runner-up Maggie Manson, Wolf's six-player rotation featured five seniors in 2018, as the veteran squad led the Mustangs to a third-place finish at the East Region Tournament and a sixth-place showing at state.
One year later, Sheyenne enters a competitive Eastern Dakota Conference with a roster where 15 of 19 competitors are sophomores or younger. While aiming to build his young team's confidence, Wolf admits he'll have to taper his expectations a bit as his team looks to find its footing on the varsity level.
"It’s hard to know what to expect from this season," he said. "You don’t just reload when you lose the type of experience and consistency from graduation like we did."
With competitive action starting Friday, Wolf says only two players had been penciled into the starting lineup as of Monday.
The most experienced returning player is eighth grader Lexi Bartley, who was fourth on the team with an average score of 94.08 a season ago. She enters the year after shooting a season-low round of 89 on the last day of the 2018 state tournament.
Having been with the program since seventh grade, Brianna Mohs is also expected to see an expanded role in her senior season.
The rest of the lineup is expected to play itself out in the coming weeks. As that happens, Mustang players say they have a simple strategy with dealing with early season nerves.
"It's high school golf," Bartley said. "We need to just go for it. Have fun."
The Mustangs will compete in their first conference meet at the Bjornson Park Golf Course in Valley City Friday.
Coach: Dan Wolf (fifth season)
Last season: Third at East Region, sixth at state meet
Who's gone: Maggie Manson (State runner-up), Allison Schmidt (All-East Region), Jessica Koerselman, Kate Anderson, and Mollie Gast
Key returners: Lexi Bartley, 8th; Brianna Mohs, Sr.
Coach's comments: "We are expecting several golfers back who challenged for varsity spots last year who definitely have the ability to compete at the varsity level but we will have to temper our expectations to a degree knowing how inexperienced we’ll be. We’ll really just focus on having realistic expectations for our new golfers early in the season and try to build toward playing our best golf at EDC and hope that will be good enough for us to qualify for the state tournament."