With state championships in two of the last three years, the Waukee boys’ golf team has established itself as the team to beat.

That target seemed to intensify after last season, when the Warriors squeaked out a one-stroke victory to edge Cedar Rapids Kennedy for the title, 617-618, and it won’t change this fall even after the graduation of three varsity starters.

"Our attitude needs to be one of being successful now and not thinking about the future," said longtime coach John Kotz. "We have the talent, now we need to come together as a team and work to meet some common goals. This season is only going to be as successful as our commitment."

The Warriors return 18 players from last year, including four who have varsity experience. Junior Aaron DeNucci placed sixth in the state last season, and Connor Littlefield was third overall in the 2011 state meet. Also back are junior Parker Howe, who averaged 39.5 strokes over nine holes last season, and senior Luke Fegen, who averaged 40.3.

The Warriors will draw from last year’s undefeated junior varsity team to fill out the varsity roster this fall. Sophomore Tripp Kinney, who was medalist last week at the Linn-Mar Invitational, played on the Iowa Junior Tour this summer and finished 22nd in the men’s Iowa Amateur Tournament. Also in the mix will be senior Logan Floyd, junior Evan Wasteney, sophomore Tom McGlaughlin and freshman Andrew O’Brien, all of whom were active on the Iowa Junior Tour over the summer.

"I like the combination of different grade level talent that will compete for varsity time on our team," Kotz said. "Our varsity can turn out to be upperclassmen only, or it may be a combination of underclassmen and upperclassmen."

It may take a while to put together all the parts, but with the time that players have already invested, Kotz believes it will come.

"Our players have worked extremely hard during the offseason," said Kotz, who pointed to West Des Moines Valley, Ankeny Centennial and Dowling Catholic as the other teams to beat in the Central Iowa Conference. "Between playing national tournaments, Iowa Amateur Tour events and Iowa Junior Tour events, our players have put themselves in a position to be successful.

"It will take some time to find our identity, but it will happen."