CAMANCHE – Jesse Gabel had modest expectations for his first season as the Camanche girls' golf coach.
He wanted his players to have fun. He wanted them, well, those who can, to return next year. He wanted to set a standard of working hard every day in practice.
Then the Indians showed their leader what they can do on the course. They proved they could not only compete, but win. In fact, the team won four events this month alone.
Camanche's potential was first demonstrated during the opening week of the season on April 2, as the Indians were only seven strokes off the pace of conference leader Anamosa.
"Coming into the season, I told them that we are going to have fun and that I didn't know where we'd be compared to the rest of the conference," Gabel said.
"We came out for our first invitational in Anamosa, showed well, and kept it close. I think that was motivating because they realized, "Hey, we can hang with these guys."
Hanna Nissen, the team's No. 1 player, has bought into the message. In fact, the senior said last week that the group has adjusted its postseason goals accordingly.
"We've been thinking about doing good this year, thinking about state and actually trying to get there," Nissen said.
Nissen is joined by junior Skylar Jess at the forefront of the team's lineup. The duo consistently leads the Indians' scoring efforts, and can regularly be seen staying after practice to play another round or work on other aspects of their game.
Gabel said the upperclassmen's leadership has made a lasting impact on the rest of the team.
"Not only do they push each other, it's the fact that they push the other girls, too," he said, "you will see them be very motivating to the other girls and that helps us as a team."
Nissen sits fourth in the River Valley Conference (and second in North division) in 9- and 18-hole average (46.9). The four-sport standout's impressive season was punctuated last Monday, where she shot a red-hot 39 in dreary conditions to make program history.
While Gabel praised his leader's daily efforts in (and after) practice, he noted the innate fluidity of Nissen's swing.
"She [Nissen] works hard and plays hard," Gabel said. "She is naturally gifted as far as golf is concerned. She has a beautiful swing – that's the number one thing people say when they see her play is, 'Wow, what a swing.'"
Jess, ranked sixth in average (51) on Camanche's side of the conference, has also provided consistently low scores. Her season was highlighted by the Irish Invitational, shooting 96 to record the lone score under 100.
Gabel points to a persistence of improving her craft as a reason behind the junior's success.
"Every single day, she [Jess] works really hard and just wants to be a better golfer," Gabel said after a April 22 dual with Northeast at Valley Oaks Golf Club. "She comes out here and plays by herself after practice or if we aren't practicing that day."
Nissen and Jess are flanked by Alison Edfors, Chloe Handy, Teighgan White, Carli Reynolds and Mallory Good – a group that has collectively impressed throughout the season.
Edfors has been the anchor for the middle of the team's lineup with a 54.2 average that ranks in the top-15 in the North. White and Handy, both averaging 59 and some change, have been reliable contributors, too.
"We are playing really well, I feel really good about it," Gabel said.
The Indians return to action with a trip to take on Davenport Assumption Thursday. Camanche will enter the postseason with a district meet at Tipton on May 10.