McNary’s Joel Dutcher hopes to contend for a district title in his junior season as the leader of the McNary boys golf team. (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings)

Coming into the 2019 season, both McNary’s girls and boys golf teams find themselves in similar situations.

For the girls squad, the loss of senior Hannah Elliot is huge. Elliot finished third at the Greater Valley Conference District Tournament last year after shooting an 88 on the first day, followed by an 87 on the following day, which earned her a spot at the state tournament.

Without their top golfer from last year, the Celtics will rely heavily on Juralee Stover in 2019.

Stover also qualified for state last season by taking fifth at districts and looks to build off the success she had in 2018 by putting together a strong season in 2019.

“I expect her to lead our team with her play and leadership. Over the off-season she committed herself to improving her game,” McNary girls golf coach Brad Lomax said.

“The one thing that stands out the most is her confidence. I now see a young lady that is willing to be more aggressive from 150 yards out or help a teammate out with reading the greens at practice.”

However, Stover isn’t the only girls golfer that McNary is relying on.

The Celtics also return seniors Emma John and Katie Wyatt, as well as juniors in Bailey True and Carly McElhaney, which makes their depth among the best in the league.

“We return a group of players that all have the experience and potential to go under 100 at every match. Any one of these girls could play in any one of the varsity positions.”

With an experienced group, don’t be surprised if the Lady Celts are in position to be at the state tournament in a couple months.

“Success will be each player tweaking small parts of their game everyday at practice, bringing and maintaining a positive attitude and sharing in each other’s small victories,” Lomax said.

“I believe that if each player can do those things individually, they will go lower each week and as a team the McNary ladies golf team will make the state golf tournament in mid-May.”

The McNary boys team, on the other hand, also graduated a state qualifier last season in Matt Langenwalter — who placed third at the GVC Tournament.

But the Celtics will return their top golfer from last year in junior Joel Dutcher, who placed second at districts and finished 23rd at the state tournament last season. Dutcher shot a 71 in his first round at the district tournament, which is his personal best.

“I expect Joel to be one of the best players in the league once again,” McNary boys golf coach Rick Ward said.

While Dutcher hopes to compete for a district crown for the second straight year, Ward acknowledged that it might be a little more difficult this season since McNary is now in the same conference with Summit, Bend and Mountain View.

“Our league got a lot harder. We have much more competitive teams,” Ward said. “As a team, we’ll have to step up.”

 Nathan Young is expected to be the number two golfer on the squad while freshman Brady Jackson will likely fill the three-spot.

Junior Andrew Waldo — who is a transfer from North Carolina — is also expected to be in the rotation.

While the boys team doesn’t quite have the depth that the girls squad has, Ward believes that his guys still might be able to squeak into the state tourney.

“I don’t see this team winning the district, but we should at least compete for a top-four spot,” Ward said.