A year ago, the Panthers were supposed to do the same. The team was making headway, but the best-case scenario was one, maybe two girls qualifying for the 6A state meet, gaining familiarity to keep Derby progressing into the next year.
“That was such a big thing for the girls to achieve last year, that they themselves didn’t really think they could do that,” Herrs said. “That confidence really showed, and has carried into this fall into the first two weeks of practice.”
And now this year? With three athletes returning with state experience, another appointment with the state course is not just in reverie – it’s presumed.
But for now, Herrs stresses getting better each week. In some ways, he downplays the potential of the Panthers, citing that the girls have yet to be tested on windy days, or that bunkers, trees and rough grass could be pitfalls.
Senior Kelly Mason is the stable force, Derby’s top returner after placing 64th a year ago.
“She hits the ball really long, and that’s such a huge advantage in shortening the course down,” Herrs said. “This year, she’s really made a big effort coming into this season to work on her short game, and try to save strokes there.”
Senior Kennedy Long also returns. A three-sport star who has verbally committed to Wichita State for softball, Long tried out for the golf team for the first time this past season. The result was a respectable 76th place finish.
Taylour Hayes rounds out the returners after taking 84th.
To improve on the team score, however, Derby has to find a dependable fourth scorer. Herrs said freshman Sydney Murray has shown the potential to solidify the back end of the scorecard.
“It’s important to have four good scores, especially in the postseason, that way if somebody does struggle, you have that little extra cushion to make up for it,” Herrs said.
Herrs said a state trip will, in the end, be the target, but he rarely mentions it. Right now, there is no pressure to generate anything but consistency.
Derby competes in two invitationals this week to kick off the campaign. The Panthers host their home tournament on Oct. 1, getting a glimpse of several Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I and 6A competitors. The league meet is Oct. 4
In Herrs’ third year, the players have morphed into a team. That element began to blossom a year ago, and was a critical piece in pushing ahead the timetable for being competitive.
“The girls really get along,” Herrs said. “The camaraderie they have makes it so much easier, not only for me, but for them going to tournaments.”