By Mike Deak
NAPPANEE – Quietly, one of the area’s most dominant programs kept on doing what it does well – win.
The 2019 NorthWood girls golf team isn’t an imposing bunch striking fear in the hearts of its opponents. The team is, however, fearless and was stone cold in furthering its Northern Lakes Conference streak as well as taking on one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the state.
NorthWood jumped into lofty company in the pantheon of the NLC, winning its eighth straight tournament championship, and did so in spectacular fashion. By shooting a 317, NorthWood set the conference tournament round record by a staggering 15 strokes, previously a 332 set by Warsaw in 2005.
The team becomes just the 11th program in the conference’s history to win at least eight straight NLC titles in any sport.
It wasn’t a shocking feat that NorthWood claimed the NLC tournament title, as it hasn’t lost a conference dual since 2011, a run of 57 straight dual wins. The team went 11-0 in all dual matches over the season, averaging just under 161 per nine-hole round.
“This team became very secure in themselves early on,” said NorthWood girls golf head coach Adam Yoder. “We found our identity as a team that had each other’s backs from day one and wanted to re-write the history books in our program. We didn’t get every single record, but we got a lot of them. We figured if we did that, we’d put ourselves back at Prairie View with a chance to place very high.”
In all, the team set or matched 16 records, including the 317 at the NLC Championship and then later a 316 at the Warsaw Sectional. Both of those numbers set the tournament records.
The Panthers won team titles at Lafayette Harrison, NorthWood, Lapel and then the NLC and sectional.
NorthWood’s fourth sectional championship had the team take a runner-up spot at the regional, only falling short of eventual state champion Homestead. At the IHSAA State Finals, NorthWood would finish sixth overall with a two-day score of 680, it’s best two-day state score and best team finish in the program’s budding history.
“We ended up getting sixth, and people that truly understand single-class athletics versus multi-class athletics in Indiana know just how special that is,” added Yoder. “We couldn’t have asked for more out of our group.”
The record setting continued in 2019 for super sophomore Cybil Stillson. Her growing dominance in the sport was overwhelming, as she set 18 personal records over the course of the season. Stillson was the medalist in five 18-hole tournaments, including firing a sterling 67 at the regional. Stillson was the medalist in all 11 of the team’s nine-hole duals, and only shot a score with a 40 once, and that was a 40 against Mishawaka.
The go-low theme ran through the starting lineup.
Breanna Goss was the runner-up at the Harrison and NorthWood tourneys and posted five top 10s this season.
Kirsten Schrock and Makenna Gall both shot 79s to finish as runner-ups at the sectional, and Schrock’s 76 was runner-up at the NLC Championships. A sixth-place Delaney Davis score at the sectional was part of a run that had NorthWood land over two dozen scores in the top 10s of its 18-hole tournaments.
“Some years are different than others, but what we’ve developed over the last 12 years is a program where most everyone loves each other, commits to improving, and is open and honest with each other about how we can improve each year,” Yoder said. “Sometimes we get maximum buy-in. Last year’s seniors (Makenna Gall, Kylee Gall, Delaney Davis, Kirsten Schrock) was the most improved class from their freshman to their senior year that we’ve ever had. That’s really the key: improvement. We’ve very rarely had players that don’t improve from year to year, and that’s what makes it so much fun each year.”