KENDALLVILLE – For as fidgety as Wawasee girls golf head coach Steve Coverstone can be, his wife, Laura, was just as nervous. With Wawasee needing every stroke down the stretch, Laura mentioned to Wawasee parent Molly Rostochak she was praying for a miracle. The prayers were heard and answered as Wawasee found itself on the plus side of the leaderboard at the East Noble Girls Golf Regional.
The 341 posted by Wawasee was one better than East Noble and two better than NorthWood to claim the third and final team spot in qualifying for the IHSAA State Finals next weekend. Of course, the drama was cut with a knife, serrated for some, smooth for others.
It seemed disaster had struck for Wawasee. The Lady Warriors had sat in second place after four of the six pairings groups were posted, but felt crucial strokes had been given away. Elizabeth Jackson was well on her way to a 78, but a maddening nine on her final hole had the senior taking three swings from the rough before finishing out with an 83.
Mikala Mawhorter was dealing with pain of a different kind. The No. 1 for the Lady Warriors was on her hands and knees, crumbled on the first tee after her shoulder popped out of place during a practice swing. Having already injured the shoulder a couple years ago, Mawhorter popped it back in place, shook off some tears and finished her round. The junior shot a courageous 83.
Wawasee’s top round came from junior No. 3 Kylee Rostochak. Having never shot in the 80s in her life, Rostochak found a nice rhythm, stayed out of the hazards and posted a lifetime-best 85. A huge score for the cause.
“You had to wait until they put up the final, and it was nerve racking,” Rostochak said. “We all figured we would have to shoot our best. It was just really exciting. My day was pretty good. I just tried to be focused. I think getting out as a team is really cool.”
Aubrey Schmeltz also avoided big numbers and posted a 90, with Kamryn Foy giving Wawasee its fifth score at 101.
With Wawasee’s 341 on the board, six teams still had to report and post. Leo’s 336 led the next three and Carroll’s 345 and Southwood’s 358 eased the mind a little as Wawasee now found itself in third with Fort Wayne Dwenger’s already posted 339.
As Bellmont, Penn and NorthWood filed in, the breathing among the throng of onlookers at the board picked up. Disbelief among the masses rumbled as word of mighty Penn’s 353 was posted on the board and Bellmont’s 350 heightened the drama.
Tears rained down the cheeks of the NorthWood golfers as its 343 wasn’t going to cut it. Doubly worse was individual No. 1 Linnzie Richner missed the individual cut by one stroke with her 78.
As NorthWood’s score was officially written on the board, Wawasee went into hysterics, as did Dwenger and Leo. NorthWood coach Adam Yoder already knew his team’s fate, but wasn’t in the same mental state as his grief-stricken girls.
“That is our lowest 18-hole score of the year. It just came down to a couple shots here and there by about five teams,” stated Yoder. “We lose one senior in Rachel (Beebe) and she shot a personal best today. That’s tough emotions to handle. But we get four of our five back next year, and that’s a nice thing to take into the offseason. There will definitely be some motivation going into next August, but we’ll be fine. We had a great season.”
Summer Stillson shot an 86, Beebe an 87, Madison Richner a 92 and Baillie Richner a 96 to round out the NorthWood scores at the regional.
For Wawasee, the trip to the finals mark the first time a Wawasee girls team has reached a state finals as an official competing team since the 2006 girls basketball team faced Indianapolis Brebeuf in the 3-A basketball final. Steve Coverstone, never one to be excited until things were made official, couldn’t hide his excitement after the official announcement.
“These girls have stuck together all year,” grinned Coverstone. “Today was great. Mikala was playing hurt, Elizabeth had just the one bad hole, and Kylee getting that 85 was huge. I told her we needed par, par to finish and she got it. That was the difference for us as far as I see it. It wasn’t the mistakes, it was the makes we got, that’s what got us through.”
Individually, five golfers also cashed their ticket to the state finals. Jaycee Bunner of Fort Wayne Blackhawk was the overall medalist with a 69, followed by Kinley Lingenfelter of Rochester with a 74. East Noble’s Alyn Clark carded a 76, as did Oak Hill’s Lauren Tibbets. A three-way playoff was held to determine the final individual, and Penn’s Cassidy Jurkaites beat out Dayna Dale of Southwood and Cooper Handshoe of East Noble. All three golfers posted a 77 in regulation.
The IHSAA Girls Golf State Finals will begin Friday at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel. The two-day event will have 15 teams as well as 15 individuals competing.
East Noble Girls Golf Regional (Cobblestone Golf Course)
1. Leo 336
2. Fort Wayne Dwenger 339
3. WAWASEE 341
4. East Noble 342
5. NORTHWOOD 343
6. Fort Wayne Carroll 345
7. Bellmont 350
8. Penn 353
9. Columbia City 356
10. Homestead 357
11. Southwood 358
12. Elkhart Central 361
13. South Adams 362
14. DeKalb 365
15. South Bend St. Joseph’s 381
16. Fairfield 390
17. Huntington North 394
18. Oak Hill 394