The girls golf scene in Ahwatukee this season is all about ushering in a new era and not just because both programs have new coaches.

Pete Manigold takes over for Carol Wallace at Mountain Pointe and Matt Russo replaces Pierson Hamilton at Desert Vista, but the players who left the program might be just as hard to replace.

Manigold might have a bit of an advantage simply because he knows the ins and outs of girls golf a little better as he previously coached the Pride program in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

“I took some time off to be with the family, but ended up coaching (freshmen boys) basketball for awhile,” Manigold said. “Then I thought, ‘What did I leave golf for?’ Carol had to step away and the offer was there so what the heck, it is something I love to be a part of again.”

The Pride lost Darian Spivey, who signed with Northern Arizona, and Sami Springs, but return three quality players.

Juniors Maddi Woodward, Cassidy Chase and sophomore Lauren Blumears will give the team a nice foundation for the next few seasons.

“There is a lot of potential there and they are learning the game,” Manigold said. “They’ve shot some really good rounds and need to work on the finer points of the game.”

As far as the next few spots on the roster, Manigold was unsure who would be counted on heading into the season opener Wednesday at Ahwatukee Country Club against Red Mountain.

“We have a bunch of other girls who can be good and if we can get a couple of them to turn the corner, we should be able to put to five solid golfers out there,” he said.

The team, which had 11 players tryout, will play a tough schedule including the Antigua Invitational, Tempe Invitational and Prescott Invitational.

“Right now we are just getting back into the swing of things and hopefully they played a lot over the summer because it gets started pretty quick here,” he said.

Manigold said he likes the makeup the team and is happy to be back running the program.

“The kids are phenomenal,” he said. “They work hard, have fun and get along. I love all of my students but coming out here is my favorite part of the day.”

The Thunder, who finished sixth at state last season, has a lot more inexperience to deal with as Cady Espinoza, Kassidy Long-Goheen and Maggie Black are all gone.

Add in first-year coach Russo and it could be a year where it takes a few weeks before everyone finds their footing.

“We’ve been doing a lot of good things,” said Russo, who is a recreational golfer who grew up playing in Oregon. “All of the surprises have been good ones so far.”

That includes getting some additional players last week. The team started out with six players in tryouts, but five new players — mostly freshman and sophomores — came out for the team to give the Thunder much-needed depth.

“These are young players who have some skill that we can develop over the years,” Russo said.

Some of the players weren’t even officially cleared as of Friday and Desert Vista opens the season hosting Xavier and Dobson at Foothills Golf Club on Wednesday.

With that said, Russo was a little hesitant to mention individuals by name other than senior Geraldine Torrellas, who is the team captain.

“She’s doing a good job of leading already,” he said.

Russo said the most important thing this first season is getting to know each other while improving each week.

“You have to have a good short game to be a quality golfer so it is something we will focus on,” he said. “More importantly, we have to have etiquette and have fun. The competitive aspect is always there and we will see how we do.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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