WARSAW — NorthWood really outdid itself at Saturday’s Northern Lakes Conference Golf Championships.
The Lady Panthers did as they were expected to do — namely, earn an eighth straight NLC title backing up yet another undefeated run through round robin play with the tournament championship at Stonehenge. That eight-peat, led by sophomore Cybil Stillson’s repeat conference low-medalist finish, represents the most consecutive NLC titles ever by any program in NorthWood history.
But the girls in red and black did one better, too. En route to that historic team title, their 317 not only bested runner-up Northridge by a full 26 strokes, it also shattered the previous tournament team low of 332 set by Warsaw in 2005.
“The spring and the summer, these girls put in massive amounts of time, and that makes them easy to coach, to be honest. I just kind of help steer them around and try not to screw up too much, and they seem to play pretty well,” said head coach Adam Yoder. “They do a lot of preparation on these courses as well. We come out and play practice rounds, and they’re very meticulous about angles and where certain pin locations are that you can’t go at. I think mentally they’re very well-prepared as well as physically, obviously.”
“Coming back, we obviously had high expectations for ourself and for our team, and everyone just did a great job getting their job done today. So, yeah, we’re really excited, and I just think we have such a great team chemistry that we just work really well together as a team,” said Stillson.
“We are very in tune with each other, so if one of us is struggling we know, and we kind of pick up each other’s slack where needs be,” echoed senior Kirsten Schrock. “It’s really special having this streak so we kind of hope that it continues.”
Not that any slack needed picked up anywhere for the Panthers’ lineup — NorthWood earned three top-five finishes and each and every one of its players scored in the top 15 at the conference capper — but if it had, Stillson’s and Schrock’s rounds would’ve gone a long way to doing so.
Stillson’s 75 earned her repeat individual championship honors, while Schrock’s 76 landed her co-runner-up honors alongside Northridge senior Braedyn O’Dell.
Playing alongside O’Dell, Stillson had some work to do after the turn, trailing her Ridge rival by two strokes. But after getting off to a rough start, Stillson bore down, ultimately shooting par on her last four holes to hold off O’Dell for the title.
“I thought she did a great job of staying composed and staying positive. That’s something we’ve been trying to work on with Cyb — her skills are at such a high level, it sometimes can be a little disappointing when you don’t play to your standards,” said Yoder of his ace. “Early in the round, she wasn’t playing to her standards. I think she was 3-over through four, and, for her, that’s not very good. But I think she was 1-over the rest of the way. That’s special. I’m really proud of her.”
“I didn’t have a great start, wasn’t feeling great, didn’t sink many putts that I wanted to make. But then on the back nine I just knew that I had to go low, had to get those shots back,” recalled Stillson. “Being able to play against Braedyn, we’re really close. We’ve become close — she played with my sister when my sister was in high school, so I’ve known her for a long time. It’s always great to be able to play against her and just go head-to-head because I feel like I play better when I’m playing against someone who is right with me. I see pressure as a privilege, so I just want to do my best.”
Schrock rode a hot driver to a fantastic start to the round, meanwhile, and was sitting at en even-par 35 at the turn. She gained a few strokes on the challenging back side at Stonehenge, but her 41 there was plenty good enough for a career-low at the championship meet.
“My long game was really good today. I relied heavily on it because my short game was lacking that little bit,” explained Schrock. “My driver was amazing. I was able to get the ball out there ahead of the trouble.”
“She got off to a great start. She was just really solid,” said Yoder of his senior. “I think she hit 13 greens in regulation. That’s huge — you’re putting for birdie on 13 greens. And she’s worked so hard. From her time to her freshman year to now, the difference is amazing. I think she shot in the 70s at our invite this year and to finish tied for second in the conference her senior year — she was the 10th player her freshman year. She was the last player on our JV, so that’s a pretty big improvement.”
While Stillson and Schrock both played their way onto the All-NLC team, so did Breanna Goss at 81. Makenna Gall was named all-conference honorable mention for her 85 — good enough for eighth place individually — and even the team’s fifth score of 89 posted by Delaney Davis, was no lower than 12th on the individual leaderboard.
“We’re lucky right now that we have five girls that all can place in the top five at most of the tournaments we’re in,” said Yoder. “They do a great job of picking each other up when somebody is down. If someone doesn’t have their best day, someone else is usually going to play well so it keeps them relaxed out there.”
While NorthWood earned top honors yet again and the Raiders finished as team runners-up, Wawasee finished just two strokes out of third place with a 359 to Concord’s 357. It’s a good springboard into next weekend’s Warsaw Sectional, which will take place back at Stonehenge.
“I feel like we played pretty well,” said head coach Steve Coverstone. “I feel like we played about as well as we can expect to play at this point. If we want to go on next week, we’ve got to play that well again.”
Belle Brunner paced the Warriors with an 82, playing her way onto the All-NLC first team in the process. The Wawasee senior was struggling with her game somewhat in recent weeks but seems to be back on track at the right time.
“She went through a rough period. She’s coming back,” said Coverstone.
Taylor Cripe fired an 88 in the fourth flight out for Wawasee, Tate Cowan shot 91, and Jadison Rostochak shot 98. Valerie Haessig’s 101 represented the team’s fifth score.
Coming in behind the Warriors was host Warsaw with a 377 for fifth place Saturday. It’s about what their coach expected.
“It’s right around our average. Overall, I think we have some stepping stones to build off of for next week, and I think we’ve got a good game plan of what we need to work on for next week,” said Tigers head coach Tad Nieter.
The home team didn’t net an all-conference pick but Delaney Byron’s 89 landed her in the top 15 at the big meet.
“The last couple weeks she’s really been trending upward, and, as a sophomore, she showed some great maturity out there, so I couldn’t be more proud of her,” said Nieter.
“She played very composed. Her course management was phenomenal. I think that really helped her, especially on the back nine where it can get tight — she pulled some smart clubs.”
Grayson Kilburn shot 92, Marie Frazzetta carded 94, and Sydney Lancaster shot 102 for the Tigers. Brooklyn Fitsberald’s 12 was the team’s toss-out score.
Earning All-NLC First Team honors alongside Brunner, Stillson, Schrock, Goss and O’Dell were Concord’s Lauren Boessler, Northridge’s Ashley Brewster and Elkhart Memorial’s Courtney King. Finishing in the league honorable mention rolls with Gall were Plymouth’s Olivia Waymouth, Northridge’s Jules Weaver and Concord’s Gracie Tucker.
Wabash won the Three Rivers Conference Tournament Saturday with a 370, five strokes better than Peru and Maconaquah, both of whom finished at 375. Whitko place sixth with a 398 followed by Manchester in eighth place with a 427, and Tippecanoe Valley was eighth with a 436.
Leading Valley in 15th place individually was Madelyn Weaver and her 96. Lydie Miller and Molly Moriary both shot 113, and Lily Ault and Kaydence Mellot each carded 114 in a clustering from 31st through 34th place.
Whitko got a 96 from Guinny Garr, while Erin Starkweather and Augusta Garr both shot 100, and Summer West turned in a 102. Bailey Wright shot 103 for the Wildcats.
Samantha Kissell’s 84 earned her the third spot on the leaderboard for Manchester. Alissa Bickerstaff carded 106, Kayla Hippensteel shot 109, Chaynee Tennant put up a 128, and Delani Henderson shot 134 for the Squires.
Wabash’s Bella Carrillo carded 82 for individual titlelist honors.