Created:Tuesday, August 20, 2013 11:59 p.m.CDT

Lexi Harkins' return strengthens state-savvy CL Central-co-op

Crystal Lake Central co-op's Bailey Bostler is part of a Tigers team that returns almost everyone from last year's state-qualifying squad. (Kyle Grillot –

The Crystal Lake Central co-op girls golf team is receiving a big addition to its lineup this season in the form a familiar face.

Lexi Harkins, a two-time Northwest Herald Golfer of the Year, has returned for her senior season.

Harkins took last season off to play in national junior tournaments to gain exposure in hopes of nailing down a college scholarship. Although she missed last year’s high school golf season, the Tigers still made the state tournament as a team, while Harkins came away with a scholarship to play golf at North Carolina.

This month, Harkins was impressive at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, where she lost in the round of 16 at the Country Club of Charleston in Charleston, S.C.

“She told me not to worry and that she would be back for her senior season,” Tigers coach Kathy Speaker said, “and here she is, and we’re excited to have her back.”

With thoughts about securing college scholarships out of the way, Harkins returns to an already impressive Tigers team that returns all of last season’s golfers except one. Now, with Harkins joining golfers with state experience, Speaker believes the Tigers will be a force in the Fox Valley Conference and in the state.

“We’ve been eyeing this year for a long time,” Speaker said. “I said when this group of girls were freshman that they have all the talent in the world to really do something special during their senior years. This will be, and should be, our year.”

Speaker had been eyeing this season for more than three years when she first saw what freshmen Bailey Bostler, Brianna DiGrazia, Alex Siavelis

and Harkins were able to accomplish, and couldn’t wait to see the heights they would reach in their final year.

“I’m really excited to come back and play,” Harkins said. “We’re hoping to do really well this season, and I think we can head to state as a team.

“I missed the team atmosphere, and to come back when we definitely have a lot of really good players on the team this year – both seniors and juniors – we’ll make some noise.”

The excitement entering the season isn’t just based on potential alone, however. The team is excited about juniors Larisa Luloff and Emily Jean, who will round out an already impressive lineup. Luloff and Jean constantly battled in tournaments over the summer. The rest of the team has been dominating courses in the area, as well, while playing in McHenry County Junior Golf Association tournaments.

DiGrazia and Siavelis placed in the Top 10 in season points in MCJGA tournaments, while Bostler had the top total score by 70 points over Luloff, who came in second. Jean placed fourth.

“They have all worked so hard, and they play all summer long,” Speaker said. “They are winning tournaments while getting better and better each time out.”

“I can feel I’m becoming more consistent,” Bostler said after a July 2 win at Marengo Ridge Golf Club. “It’s a ways off, but this high school season will be a good one for our team.”