As the summer draws to a close, it means it's time for the players of the Burroughs High and Burbank girls' golf teams to take to the course and represent their schools for another season.
Last season, both Burbank and Burroughs featured squads that had to replace departed talent at the top, and both schools finished outside the top three in the Pacific League and missed the postseason.
This year, both squads will look for improvement with more experienced groups. Burbank will have a strong returning player to build around, while Burroughs will feature a potent mix of new and returning talent, as both try to catch last year's co-champions, Arcadia and Crescenta Valley, as well as third-place La Cañada.
Burbank Coach Branko Sevic thinks catching up with the Pacific League elites is not out of the realm of possibility as long as his Bulldogs "keep improving."
Bulldogs' Irene Maemura finished ninth in league her freshman campaign and improved to second last year. For the junior to continue improving and maybe even win her first league individual title, she'll have to overcome a two-time defending title holder in Crescenta Valley senior Jocelyn Chia, the reigning All-Area Girls' Golfer of the Year who edged Maemura by six strokes to win last season.
"We're trying to get her a league championship and keep progressing," Sevic said of the goals for his star and team, respectively, in the upcoming season.
Maemura comes off a successful sophomore season that saw her take second in the individual league championship, as well as advancing to the CIF-Women's Southern California Golf Assn. Championship, where she carded an 82.
"Hopefully this year we'll get her to state," Sevic said.
Returning players Alexis Poche and Caitlin McGrath also will be looked to as key players as the team progresses.
"I'm expecting [Poche] to play better this year," Sevic said of the incoming sophomore.
McGrath will be a junior and has been developing her game.
"I know she worked hard," Sevic said. "I saw a lot of her at the range this summer."
With a small squad of six golfers, that means everyone will be relied on if the Bulldogs want to achieve positive results.
"With a small squad it's very tough," Sevic said. "Everything is going to count."
This season, Burroughs returns a core of four seniors in Joany Gao, Stephanie Adachi, Evyn Freedman and Tiffany Mirabal, who have all been in the program since their freshman years.
Top returnee Gao will be the anchor and looks to cap her Burroughs career with her fourth straight appearance in CIF Southern Section Individual Regionals play. Big things are also expected from Adachi, who has improved each year.
"Joany will be in the hunt again this year for a CIF individual spot in the Pacific League," Burroughs Coach Greg Everhart said. "Stephanie could potentially surprise the league and make it in as well. She is easily the most improved golfer in JBHS history."
The Indians are also counting on an influx of talent from their freshman class. Katrina Villareal, Maddie Riggs and Raelinn Arnold will be counted on to produce immediately at the varsity level, and Everhart says all three are players "who come onto the team with the attitude to win and the game to back it up."
The Indians are just a year removed from their last playoff appearance. In 2011, Burroughs finished third in league, claiming the final postseason spot just ahead of La Cañada. But last year, it was the Spartans who finished in third, leaving Burroughs on the outside.
"I'm not too sure about the strength of the other teams in the league, but I know that we will be better this year than last," Everhart said.