WARSAW — NorthWood’s girls golf team shot about what their coach expected, and it left the Lady Panthers in pretty good standing at the Warsaw Invitational Saturday. They had a chance to go even lower, but a rough stretch on the last few holes after playing through the hottest part of a hot day at Rozella-Ford cost them. Still, a 328 and a runner-up finish behind No. 4-ranked Homestead was nothing to sneeze at.
Each of Homestead’s top four all broke 80, paced by Maddi Dabagia’s medalist round of 2-over-par 72, and the Spartans fired an impressive 303 for the meet title, while Wood slotted in just behind with a 328, followed by Lafayette Jefferson’s 334. Warsaw fielded two teams at their home invite, the varsity “Orange” team carding 378 for fifth, and the JV “Black” finishing in 400 for eighth, while Triton placed 10th with a score of 452 Saturday.
NorthWood coach Adam Yoder was pleased with his team’s tally, but some exceptional golf early in the round had the Lady Panthers boss wanting even more.
“I thought we’d be in the 320s, and that’s where we ended up,” he said. “But I think our program record is 322, and we had a chance to shoot in the 3-teens today the way we were playing and we just didn’t play very well our last three holes.
“But overall we’re happy with where we’re at. We feel like we turned a corner a little bit today. We played a lot better for longer stretches than maybe we have been at certain points.”
The Panthers got a great one-two from MacKenzie Weaver and freshman Cybil Stillson, who shot respective scores of 77 and 78 for fourth and fifth place on the individual leaderboard. The dynamic duo ran into trouble late in the round, however, preventing them from going even lower.
“Cybil and MacKenzie didn’t finish the way they should’ve; they both should’ve been under 75, there’s no question,” explained Yoder.
“We’re very happy with having those two as a nice, one-two punch at the front. They’ve never played out here; everybody was playing it blind, so that was a challenge today for them, too. But we’re very excited with where we’re at.”
Delaney Davis carded an 85 for ninth place individually and NorthWood’s third score, while Kirsten Schrock was 11th with an 88. The Panthers’ toss-out was supplied by Abby Slabaugh and her 90, still good enough for 16th place overall.
The 14-team invitational got of to an unusually late start at 1 p.m., and NorthWood’s scores climbed a bit late in the round. Yoder attributed that less to starting in the afternoon heat than to a possible lack of nutrition.
“We didn’t do a good enough job with food today as we normally do. We didn’t force food down their throats like maybe we do a little bit,” he said with a chuckle. “But we drank plenty; they’re hydrated. They just lost a little energy at the end, and there were a lot of reasons for that. But I would say more of it was on us just for not being smart about nutrition than anything.”
Warsaw’s varsity continued to languish in the 90s, with Izzy Ray, Miriam Hagg and Julia Hildebrand all carding 94 for the Tigers. Maddy Ray shot 96, and the team’s fifth score — provided by Grayson Kilburn — was only a stroke back of that in a consistent finish.
“We were hoping for something a little better today. We’re trying to break this 90 mold that we’ve been going through,” explained head coach Tad Nieter. “We’ve been shooting mid- to high-90s the whole year, and we’d like to see something start breaking that 90 and trending towards lower scores.”
Actually, Warsaw’s best score of the day was turned in by a freshman playing in the JV lineup. Marie Frazzetta fired a 91, earning her 18th overall, and Nieter is hoping it’s a confidence-builder for the frosh going forward.
“That’s huge for her. I just got done talking with Marie, and I think this is really going to encourage her and use it as a building block for the rest of the season and then next season as well,” he said.
Sydney Lancaster tied Kilburn with a 97 for Warsaw Black, while Delaney Byron shot 99, Izzie Vantwoud carded 113, and Brooklyn Fitgerald turned in a 129.
Saturday’s invite featured some strong competition with three ranked teams in fourth-rated Homestead, No. 14 NorthWood and No. 10 Lafayette Jeff. Warsaw’s varsity paired with both the Spartans and the Panthers, and the JV Tigers grouped with the Bronchos. That’s by Nieter’s design. Although the pairings can be a little intimidating for his players, it’s a learning opportunity for the team, too.
“I purposely pair our girls with those teams just to give them that exposure,” Nieter said. “Especially our JV girls to be paired with Lafayette Jeff where they had one girl going off, and (Frazzetta) played well right with her. Yeah, it’s nice for our team to see that. It’s not just local teams that are decent, but it’s teams that are an hour, two hours away that are blowing up the field. Fourth-ranked team in the state is here, and we’ve played with them twice already. It’s good.”
Pacing Triton Saturday were Delanie Groves and Samantha Edington with dual 107s. Alysha May shot 114, and Maddie Ritchison finished in 124.
Lakeland Christian Academy’s lone golfer Abigail Fishel fired an 89 to finish in a tie for 14th place with Bremen’s Caitlyn Myers, meanwhile.
Warsaw opens Northern Lakes Conference play Monday at Plymouth. NorthWood also opens NLC play next week with a three-way versus Wawasee and host Northridge at Meadow Valley Wednesday, when Triton plays Tippecanoe Valley and Bremen on the road.