Bear River has already seen league’s best |

Bear River has already seen league’s best

With just one match under his team’s belt, Gayne Nakano is not sure where his Bruin varsity golf team will rate among the Pioneer Valley League field.

Last week, the Bruins did, though, run into the team he expects to be the strongest among the four teams competing for the PVL title. Bear River fell to Mira Loma 256-292 on the Bruins’ home course at Lake of the Pines.

“They have a lot of returning starters from last year,” said Nakano, who is in his 12th year as a Bruin golf coach, including five years the girls program has existed at Bear River. “It’s pretty early for me to know about the rest of the league. I’m just not really sure who graduated from the other teams.”

One thing Nakano can be sure about it is consistent play out of his top golfer, senior Jessica Benzler, a four-year varsity team member. Benzler shot a team low 48 in Thursday’s match at LOP.

“She’s improved every year and she’s probably in the top two or three in the league,” Nakano said. “She went to the (Sac-Joaquin) subsections last year and as a sophomore, also.”

Bear River, who lost one player to graduation, Liz Mauer, finished 4-2 in PVL meets, and took third among the four PVL teams, including Mira Loma, Oakmont and Lincoln, in overall points standings.

Joining Benzler will be returning classmates Jaclyn Peterson, a third-year varsity player, and second-year player Katie Merrill, a senior. Shasta Billings, a sophomore, and Stephanie Ursiny, a senior, round out the lineup.

The Bruins (0-1) are back in action Thursday, facing host Lincoln at Lincoln Hills Golf Course.

Head coach: Gayne Nakano

Last season: Finished third in Pioneer Valley League

Returning players: Jessica Benzler (Sr.), Jaclyn Peterson (Sr.), Shasta Billings (So.), Katie Merrill (Sr.).

Top newcomers: Stephanie Ursiny (Sr.)

Outlook: “It’s a good group of kids, but at this point I’m not really sure how strong the league is.”

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