CHANNAHON – Minooka enters 2013 having won five straight Southwest Prairie Conference championships in girls golf, but the now-graduated Rachel Herzberger was involved in four of them.
The 2011 Morris Daily Herald Female Golfer of the Year, Herzberger leaves a hole atop the Indians’ lineup – and it is not the only one they have to fill.
Two other members of the team that advanced out of the Class AA La Salle-Peru Regional last postseason, Deaven Hudson and Gabby Osorio, were also seniors.
Eighth-year head coach Joe Host said Herzberger, who carded an 80 at last year’s regional, is gone but not forgotten.
“She set a great example, and while she’s not with us anymore, the mark she left on our program is, and the way she influenced our younger girls who are still here,” Host said. “I think that will carry over – the example she’s left behind.”
Minooka sophomore Ali Lee calls Herzberger her “mentor.”
“I met her on the  team. She helped me a lot. We’re still friends; we still play together,” Lee said of Herzberger. “We can [move on without Herzberger]. It won’t be the same, but we still have a good team.”
Three Minooka returnees competed for the Indians in the 2012 postseason. They are Lee and seniors Rebecca Andreano and Ashley Gray.
“[Lee has] really worked hard this summer. We’re expecting good things from her,” Host said. “We’ll rely on [Andreano and Gray] for their experience.”
Lee said she feels much more comfortable with her role on the team heading into the 2013 season than she did a year prior as her freshman year approached.
“Last year, I wasn’t even on the varsity at this point, I don’t think,” Lee said. “This year, knowing I am, I’m just trying to stay consistent.”
Other upperclassmen on the roster include seniors Erin Rossetto, a program veteran who missed time in 2012 with a broken wrist, and Alex Hinkleman and juniors Danielle Harris, Olivia Kostueck, Alex Renison and Andrea Sharpe. Freshman Miranda Sharpe “will start the season and probably stay with [the varsity],” Host said.
In the first few days of practice, Host said the Indians gave him reasons for optimism about their ability to continue the success of the past several seasons.
“Our girls have been very focused. They know,” Host said. “You can see already that they definitely have that goal in mind, and we’re working towards it. Obviously you still have to go out and perform, but they have the right mindset and work ethic.
“It’s not something we’ve talked about. We haven’t had any team meetings yet. But having done it five years in a row now, the girls have all been part of the program – they don’t know anything else. There’s a mentality of this is what we do.
“They know what they need to do, and I believe they are up to the challenge.”