WARSAW – It was all about the rain and the reign Saturday at the Warsaw Girls Golf Sectional.
The field endured the rain early on, while in the end it was NorthWood who reigned supreme.
The tourney favorite Panthers lived up to the billing by shooting a 340 to capture the sectional championship at a soggy Stonehenge Golf Club.
It was an outstanding day for the Northern Lakes Conference as defending champion Wawasee finished second at 385 and host Warsaw was third at 391.
The NLC trio of league champion NorthWood, Wawasee and Warsaw all earn a spot in the East Noble Regional next Saturday at the Cobblestone Golf Course. Regional play at the Cobblestone Golf Course in Kendallville is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. with the top three teams there advancing to the State Finals set for Sept. 30-Oct. 1 in Carmel.
NorthWood, which has four players back from its State Finalist team of 2015, overcame the elements and the field to win going away. The sectional included about a 90-minute delay early on due to the heavy rains.
The Panthers, whose score was a sectional record for the program, claimed their second sectional title. NorthWood also earned a regional berth for the eighth time in the past nine years.
“I thought that if we went out and did our job and played well that we would be fine and would win today,” said NorthWood coach Adam Yoder, whose team shot 340 last weekend to win the NLC Tournament. “The girls did that. Sometimes it’s tougher with the target on you. I’m really proud of this group. The last couple of weeks they have just ran with it.”
The No. 1 group of Summer Stillson of NorthWood, Madi Graham of Warsaw and Aubrey Schmeltz of Wawasee made it through their first four holes before being pulled off the course.
“We always tell our kids to be ready for a delay and to expect it,” noted Yoder. “We did not talk about golf during the delay. Our players played games on their phones, cards or even slept. They did a great job handling the elements. They went out there and took care of business.
“I’m very happy with them. To see the smiles on their faces is really cool. It’s such a unique group that has jelled together and that has a lot of fun together.”
Sophomore Mackenzie Weaver paced the Panthers with a 79. Senior standout Summer Stillson shot an 80 for the champions, while junior Madison Richner had an 88. Sophomore Abby Slabaugh and senior Alaina Benjamin shot 93 and 95 respectively for NorthWood.
Warsaw coach Tad Nieter saw his team pull it together late to earn their regional berth.
“I’m just really happy for our girls,” said the outstanding second-year coach of the Tigers. “They did an awesome job. They just kept battling. We came out and played the first 3-4 holes really well and then came back after the delay and hit a wall which happens a lot after a delay. But they leveled off and pulled it together at the end.
“The whole season they have been making progress and I told them just to go out and do that in the sectional. It’s huge for the future of our program to be moving on to regional with three sophomores in our lineup. That kind of experience is hard to attain and a big thing for them.”
Senior Madi Graham led the Tigers with a 90. Senior Page Desenberg shot a 95, while sophomore Delaney Wihebrink was at 102. Sophomores Izzy Ray and Madelyn Ray shot 104 and 106 respectively for Warsaw.
The program has made big strides in the past two years under Nieter, who won a state title as a player at Warsaw and then played at Grace College.
“These girls deserve this,” Nieter said. “They have bought in, worked hard and that’s all I can ask for.”
Wawasee responded very well after shooting 401 to place fifth in the NLC Tournament. Senior Aubrey Schmeltz led the Warriors with an 88. Senior Madison Beaman fired a 90 and sophomore Zoe White shot a 102. Freshman Jadison Rostochak finished with a 105 and sophomore Lesley Tayagua a 115.
“Our girls just did a great job,” said Wawasee coach Steve Coverstone. “That was probably our best 18 holes of the year. They were focused and just did an outstanding job.
“We knew that we had a chance to be in the top three and advance and that was our goal. We knew that if we played well that we could do it. I just was not sure how we would play. We had not hit the ball well in practice earlier in the week. But they hit it well on the range before hand and were tuned in.
“Our two seniors came through for us. And Zoe and Jadison played really well the last few holes for us.”
Bremen finished in fourth place in the nine-team field with a 405. Plymouth was fifth with a 418, followed by Rochester (440), Triton (474), Tippecanoe Valley (475) and Caston (498).
Kate Gardner led Triton with a 115. Samantha Edington shot 116, Tessa Heaton 120, Megan McFarland 123 and Delanie Groves 133 for the Trojans.
Victoria Biddle finished with a 94 to lead Valley. Makayla Sandbakken shot a 110, Bethany Johnson 135 and Blake McBrier 136 for the Vikings. Jordan Krotke did not finish her round for Valley.
Abigail Fishel of Lakeland Christian Academy shot a 108. Claire Reiff and Makayla Compton of Whitko shot 122 and 140 respectively.
Rochester ace Kinley Lingenfelter tore it up to earn individual sectional championship honors. The senior star fired a four-under par round of 67.
Also advancing as individuals to the East Noble Regional were Katie Johnson of Plymouth, who shot an 88 and Bremen’s Lexi Miller, who shot a 92.
The East Noble Regional, which is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. next Saturday, will also include the top three teams from sectionals at Penn, Angola, East Noble, Huntington North and Norwell. Advancing from the Penn Sectional were Penn, South Bend St. Joseph and Elkhart Central. The trio of Carroll, Concord and Northridge advanced at East Noble with Fort Wayne Dwenger, DeKalb and Leo advancing at Angola.
The Huntington North and Norwell sectional were postponed Saturday due to the weather and will be played on Monday.