With his team entrenched in the premier golf conference in the state, Norwalk High head coach Ray Kodel is turning toward his seniors for a lift on the scorecard.
"I've told this to my team and this is going to be my mantra all year, is that the seniors must step up this year," said Kodel, who's entering his fifth season at the helm.
Jay Garrish, Mike Murawski and Shane Bogdanyi are among a core group of six fourth-year golfers aiming to improve upon a three-win campaign in 2010 by trimming the Bears' score to between 180 and 185.
"I'm counting on them a lot," Kodel said.
"They have a lot of varsity-match experience and I'm hoping that all that experience can turn into good scores."
Competing in the FCIAC--a golf hotbed--with perennial powers Staples, a two-time defending Division I state champion and winner of last season's conference title, and New Canaan, a two-time defending Division II state titleholder, can be challenging for even the most accomplished programs. But despite last season's struggles, the Bears remain level-headed.
"Staples, Greenwich, Darien, Trinity (Catholic), those teams are extremely tough day in and day out. They're like golf factories," Kodel noted.
"We can't always worry about them. We have to try to play within ourselves. Their scores are going to be consistently low every year, all the time. We're just trying to improve our scores from match to match and year to year. We've done that the last couple of years."
The Bears open the campaign April 6 at Greenwich at Griffith E Harris Golf Course and host Wilton the following day at Oak Hills. Also highlighting the schedule is a match with city rival Brien McMahon May 3 for the Courville Cup.
Among those also expected to contribute this season are senior Leo Sweeney, juniors Rocco Bocchetta, Ricky Bretherten, Justin Poruban and freshman James Henderson, who Kodel noted has some experience in junior tournaments.
"Everyone's going to get a chance and then after the first three or four matches, we're going to see who's stepping up to the plate," Kodel said.
Considering the Bears' experienced roster, Murawski said the team has "a lot higher expectations than in past years."
"We have talent that's been growing over the past couple years and we hope to come to a point here," he explained.
Kodel, whose teams have identical 3-15 records each of the last four seasons, explained that the Bears don't have a particular strength, but he credited his golfers' work ethic and continued commitment.
"Our kids, they show up every day. They come to practice every single day. They do try to work on their games," he said.
"They truly give a great effort and try to improve. Is there one area? No. We work on every area and show up to practice."
He added, "Every golfer gets discouraged, but our kids, they keep coming back the next day, the next match, the next year."
"They look forward to playing and they do welcome the challenge against all these wonderful players."