WARSAW – The team side of our countdown of the top teams in 2017-18 sees a couple new teams crack our list for the first time. As we wind to No. 1, we come across some upstart programs that have a lot of young players in place, potentially starting some runs of longevity to document for years to come.
10. Two Of A Kind – When trying to split hairs between who was better in the Northern Lakes Conference golf tables, a compelling argument can be made for both NorthWood and Warsaw.
The Panthers will always have the 2018 NLC Championships trophy in its display case, won by two strokes over Warsaw. The two came into the tournament deadlocked in the standings at 6-1 overall, the Panthers’ lone dual loss to Warsaw and the Tigers’ only blemish was to Wawasee two days before the tourney. In the conference championship, NorthWood’s Caleb Lung was the individual medalist, beating Plymouth’s Chapman Yoder in a one-hole playoff.
Both teams came back to win their sectional championships, NorthWood by 15 strokes over runner-up Concord at the Northridge Sectional, and Warsaw by one over Culver Academy at the Warsaw Sectional. Lung was again the medalist at the Northridge tourney while Warsaw had Sam Yeager within two strokes on the Warsaw leaderboard. Warsaw would go on to finish seventh in the regional with NorthWood one stroke back for ninth, again showing the evenness of the two teams.
Warsaw’s bragging rights in résumé comes in its regular season tournament body of work, earning team titles at the Joe Harris Shootout, the Brownsburg Invite and the Culver Academy Invite. NorthWood did not win a team tournament until the NLC.
9. Breaking Through – The bar was finally raised for NorthWood girls soccer this past fall. After missing on seven sectional championship losses, the Lady Panthers finally potted a sectional championship in defeating DeKalb in the final of the Lakeland Sectional.
NorthWood’s run in what accumulated as its finest season in program history saw the Panthers win 12 matches, and all in impressive fashion via shutout. Before a loss to West Lafayette at the Plymouth Regional, NorthWood was riding on a four-match win streak that had the Panthers not allow a goal during regulation in those wins. Goalkeeper Kira Robinson was magnificent between the pipes, earning 13 clean slates among NorthWood’s 12-5-2 season.
On the ball, Kali Parisi and Avery Bontrager each scored 13 goals and Morgan Stickley netted nine goals, all three are expected to return next fall as seniors, as is Robinson in net.
8. Rising To The Challenge – Triton’s wrestling team may not have been the biggest squad around, but the Trojans punched well above their weight class in 2017-18.
Triton wrestling enjoyed a banner season with a Hoosier North Athletic Conference three-peat that included three individual titles — by Nate Riggins at 132 pounds, Vincent Helton at 160 pounds, and Bo Snyder at 170 — and seven championship berths at the Jan. 20 tournament, put on a veritable clinic at the LaVille Super Duals, where they went 5-0 to tie a school record of 15 wins, and put up a tally of 146 points at the Plymouth Sectional, where they qualified wrestlers in six weight classes for berths at the Penn Regional with Snyder and D’Angelo Shumpert collecting a pair of sectional championships at 170 and 113, respectively.
The Trojans finished with a program-best 16-4 record following a Senior Night win over Northfield, a win that the team earned at Triton Elementary after the Trojan Trench flooded in early January. Not only was the team without a home for much of the season, but it was also coping with the death of junior Cameron Scarberry, who lost his life in a car accident during the football season. Triton’s wrestlers showed admirable toughness and maturity in overcoming the many adversities they were dealt in ’17-18, making the banner year that much more impressive.
7. Sustaining Excellence – The Warsaw girls tennis team put together yet another outstanding season this Spring.
Coach Rick Orban’s team, led by singles standouts Liza Lewis and Ella Knight, worked its way to a fine 15-4 mark. The Tigers went 7-0 to claim the Northern Lakes Conference regular-season title and then placed second overall in the league after a third-place effort at the NLC Tournament.
Warsaw won its own sectional title for the 18th straight year. The Tigers then won their regional semifinal match before losing a 4-1 final to NLC foe Plymouth in the title tilt of the Culver Academy Regional. Warsaw, which had beaten Plymouth 3-2 during the regular season, was bidding for its third straight regional championship.
The Tigers lose a pair of outstanding players in Lewis and Knight from the top two singles positions respectively. The pair, who will both play in college, were four-year aces for Orban.
Warsaw is slated to return five players, including Alyssa Zellers, who played No. 3 singles as a sophomore this season. The doubles team of Taylor Shoaf and Rachel Boyle at No. 1 and Rachel Yeager and Reagan Merchant at No. 2 are also back next season.
6. Overcoming Adversity – The Warsaw boys cross country program continued its run of excellence last fall.
The Tigers, though, overcame plenty to add another tote of title hardware to the trophy cases at WCHS.
Coach Jim Mills’ team saw All-State runner Zeb Hernandez lost to the team in midseason due to a suspension.
The Tigers never blinked as the veteran team, led by the likes of seniors Lucas Howett, Taylor Mills, Xavi Ramirez and Justin Fleming, continued to win championships.
Warsaw dominated the Northern Lakes Conference Meet in impressive fashion. The Tigers then won the Culver Academy Sectional for the seventh straight year and then added the Culver Academy Regional crown the following week for the sixth straight season.
The Tigers bid for a berth in the State Finals fell just short painfully for the third straight year. Warsaw finished in eighth place at the New Prairie Semistate. The top six teams moved on to the State Finals.
Howett did represent the Tigers in Terre Haute at the State Finals after he placed 13th at the semistate.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): LCA girls basketball; LCA boys basketball; NorthWood girls golf; NorthWood volleyball; Tippecanoe Valley girls basketball; Triton boys golf; Warsaw boys soccer; Warsaw girls cross country; Wawasee gymnastics