SYRACUSE – There was no shortage of drama Saturday at the Northern Lakes Conference Girls Golf Championships.
There was also no shortage of smiles to go around for Wawasee, Warsaw and NorthWood when it was all said and done.
The host Warriors earned a share of the conference crown by edging past the Panthers by one stroke Saturday at the South Shore Golf Club.
Wawasee finished with a 353, while regular-season unbeaten NorthWood came in at 354.
Warsaw senior standout Alexis Manwaring captured individual top honors with a round of 81 to lead the Tigers to third place in the final team standings at 375.
The day belonged to the Warriors, who had gone back and forth all season long with the Panthers. NorthWood had just beaten Wawasee this past Tuesday by four shots in the NLC regular-season finale. The Panthers also won the Wawasee Invitational title last month at South Shore, finishing 17 shots ahead of the runner-up Warriors. Wawasee had topped the Panthers in a pair of invitationals earlier in the season.
Wawasee got a measure of payback thanks in large part to the outstanding duo of Elizabeth Jackson and Mikayla Mawhorter. Each fired an 82 Saturday, including a fine 39 over her final nine by Jackson.
“This really feels great,” said Jackson after the final results were made official giving the Warriors the tourney title. “I knew we could do this if all of us played our game.
“I played pretty bad on the front. On the back, it was time to go. Our team needed it and this is my last NLC. I recovered pretty well on the back with my mental game. The support from my teammates, family and coaches is why I played so well.”
Jackson’s stellar effort over the final nine rallied the hosts, who trailed NorthWood by nine shots at the turn.
Wawasee coach Steve Coverstone rode the ups and downs as he went back and forth thinking his team had lost and then knowing they had won.
“I’m thrilled to death, especially after I thought we had lost it,” remarked Coverstone. “We’re proud to be conference co-champs for the season with NorthWood.
“I thought we had a chance. We are two pretty even teams and our girls stuck with it. The back nine was big for us. I’m really proud of Mikayla and Elizabeth. The 39 by Elizabeth on the back nine was pretty good.”
Manwaring played smart down the stretch to earn her title. She shot a 41 on her first nine and trailed Linnzie Richner of NorthWood by four shots at the turn.
“The big thing is that I played smart today and I pushed myself to focus more on each shot,” Manwaring said. “Linnzie had a great front. I said whatever on the back and was just playing and having fun. The last three holes I said I can do this and it was all good.”
The champion Warriors got a 93 from Aubrey Schmeltz, along with a 96 from Kylee Rostochak and a 105 from Kamryn Foy.
The Tigers had a 97 from Page Desenberg to go with a 98 from Madi Graham, 99 from Kristen Watson and 116 by Ash Jain.
“”We knew that we would need to play really well to overcome NorthWood and Wawasee today,” said Warsaw coach Ray Davis. “Alexis struggled a little the first 5-6 holes with her putting. But, she turned that around.
“Alexis is very confident. She came in her averaging 41 and has been medalist or tied for medalist in 14 of our 17 matches this year. She knew she had to put together a full game today.”
The Panthers still earned a share of their third straight NLC championship.
“Wawasee played really well and congrats to them,” said NorthWood coach Adam Yoder. “They deserve it. Our only goal was to win the NLC and I have no problem sharing it with Wawasee. The difference today was that our No. 1 and 2 took a triple and a quad on No. 13.
“I’m really proud of our girls for defending the title. We lost our No. 1 and No. 5 from last year and had a target on our back.”
Linnzie Richner and Summer Stillson led the Panthers as each shot 84. Rachel Beebe had an 88, with Madison Richner a 98 and Baillie Richner a 101.
Plymouth finished in fourth place Saturday at 414. Concord was fifth at 419, followed by Northridge (472), Goshen (483) and Elkhart Memorial (486).
Earning All-NLC honors were Manwaring, Mawhorter, Jackson, Linnzie Richner, Stillson, Beebe, Randi Dunn of Plymouth and Michaela Searer of Concord. Honorable mention picks were Madison Richner, Rostochak, Schmeltz, Morgan Oberly of Plymouth and Emily Thomas of Northridge.
Yoder and Concord coach Jess Dooley were selected as NLC Coaches of the Year.
The final overall league standings had Wawasee and NorthWood as co-champs. Warsaw was third, followed by Plymouth, Concord, Goshen, Northridge and Memorial.
Warsaw plays Whitko on Tuesday at Sycamore and NorthWood hosts Penn and LaPorte on Wednesday at McCormick Creek in regular-season finales.
The Tigers, Panthers and Warriors will all compete in the Warsaw Sectional next Saturday at the Stonehenge Golf Club in Winona Lake.