Certainly it's not difficult to find a coach who entertains high hopes prior to the season. In fact, it's almost part of the job description.
Mandan girls golf coach Dean Johs is among those afflicted with preseason optimism, but in his case it's not pie-in-the-sky dreaming. His optimism has a foundation in reality.
Johs' Braves are coming off a sixth-place finish in the 2015 state Class A golf tournament, and only one player from that state tournament lineup has graduated. Two of his returnees earned all-state honors. In addition, the state tournament is scheduled for Prairie West Golf Course in Mandan.
Entering his ninth year as the Mandan girls coach, Johs can look back with satsifaction and ahead with optimism.
"I would say (2015) was our best showing since a long way back; I don't know how long, exactly," he said. "Mandan took third the first year I coached golf. Jim McPherson was the coach, and that was at least 15 years ago."
That was 2001, when Fargo South won the title at Rose Creek Golf Course in Fargo.
Now, with all-staters Kaycee Schulz, a senior, and Payton Roehrich, a sophomore, returning to the lineup along with sophomore Cortnie Mongeon, senior Megan Broeckel and freshman Victoria Wu, Johs is eager to get started.
"I'm very optimistic. This is going to be the best team we've had since I've been here. ... We have seven back who played some varsity last year, and eight of my top nine are returning," he observed. "I'd be disappointed if we're not in the top three (in the state). ... Last year five of the top six teams in the state tournament were from the West."
Indeed, Fargo Davies took home the championship trophy, followed by Jamestown, Bismarck, Century, Minot and Mandan.
Minot, like Mandan, is loaded with veteran players. All six of the Minot girls who played in last year's state tournament return. Among them are All-WDA performers Paige Argent and Evie Reynolds, both seniors.
"I'd say the WDA will be very competitive this year. ... Last year we and Minot finished fifth and sixth at state and we lost one scorer," Johs noted.
Johs expects the Braves to be among a strong top four along with St. Mary's, Minot and Jamestown. St. Mary's, emerging from a long co-op agreement with the Bismarck Public Schools, is expected to make an immediate impact.
"St. Mary's is going to be a powerhouse," Johs said. "... They dropped the co-op, so all the St. Mary's students from the BHS and CHS teams will be at St. Mary's. That's about 13 girls, total."
Among the St. Mary's golfers returning home are All-WDA performers Sydney Smith, from Century, and Tonya Dvorak, from Bismarck. Both were the No. 2 scorers on their teams at last year's state tournament.
Johs said the first five days of the season should be telling.
The West Region girls teams fly out of the chute today in the Turtle Mountain Invitational at Dunseith. Then they move on to the East-West Invitational at the Jamestown Country Club on Monday and Tuesday.
"We're really going to see where we stand as far as summer improvement," Johs said as he sized up today's tournament. "Kaycee has improved, and our 2, 3, 4 and 5 players are going to need to improve greatly. That's what I'm wondering about."
He says the East-West tournament is a terrific event, in terms of both the timing in the season and the competitiveness. All of the state's 21 Class A teams are entered.
"I really like that tournament at the beginning of the year," he said. "It tells us where we stand."