By Adam Yoder
LAFAYETTE – As they have the last seven years prior, the NorthWood girls golf team made a trip to the Lafayette area for girls golf Invitationals hosted by Lafayette Harrison and Lafayette Jefferson on the first two days of the IHSAA contest calendar.
With all the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, this year was undoubtedly going to be a different trip. In addition, the Panthers were starting a new journey after graduating four state finalists and having their junior standout, Cybil Stillson, playing in a three-day national event at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.
Breanna Goss would be the only returning player from the 2019 state finals in the lineup over these two days. Senior Abigail Richner was back on the course after two months due to a wrist injury, and three returning JV players (Riley Kitson, Bella Sechrist, and Kira Schrock) from 2019 rounded out the lineup. The usually calm, stoic program had a lot of “new” on their plate.
All that “new” brought a “new” opportunity for Goss—playing No. 1 for the Panthers for the first time. It looked like old hat for her as she fired a 79 to finish 2nd at the Harrison Invite at Coyote Crossing. Lafayette Jefferson’s Hailie Wolf bested Goss by two for medalist. Goss then flipped an 82 to finish tied for fourth at the Jefferson Invitational at Battleground on Tuesday.
“I felt a little pressure playing number one, knowing that I had to shoot really well to help the team,” offered Goss. “I was happy with my performance yesterday, but today was a little iffy.”
Goss commented (and her coach agreed) that the last two days without Cybil there were good for her, individually, as Stillson will resume her number one spot on Thursday at the NorthWood Invite.
“I learned a lot being the one everyone was looking at to play well. That will help me going forward. I’d like for Cybil and I to both be in the low 70’s consistently,” Goss said about the experience.
The biggest sigh of relief for the Panthers was seeing a healed-up Richner back on the course both days. Richner’s first full shots off the ground since late May came in qualifying last Friday. The lone senior, Richner had broken into the varsity lineup as a freshman in 2017 at times, but in her sophomore and junior seasons, has had to wait her turn behind Stillson, Goss, and the 2019 senior class.
“I’m looking forward to hopefully get a round in the 70’s this year,” noted Richner, who played in six varsity events last season as an individual or part of the second team, averaging a 91.7. She fired an 81 at the NorthWood Invitational last season as well.
Added the senior, “As much as I would have liked to play better these first two days, I have to give myself a little bit of leeway. I did a lot of things well in stretches.”
As a team, the Panthers finished 4th at the Harrison Invitational with a score of 372. Richner fired a 92, Kitson a 97, and teammates Bella Sechrist and Kira Schrock each shot 115’s. The Harrison Invite was scored as a four-ball event, meaning the four lowest scores on each hole counted toward the team total of 372, which fell nine shots shy of Heritage Christian’s 363. The highlights of the day saw the Panthers playing the par-four third at Coyote Crossing in one under and the par-four eighth at even par.
At the Battleground, the Panthers struggled to a 392 and a 12th place finish. The Battleground golf course has historically been very tough for NorthWood, and Tuesday was no different. Richner, still shaking off the rust, ended with 102, Kitson continued to be very steady with a 95, and Sechrist rounded out the top four scores with a personal best 113. Schrock struggled on day two with a 125.
Lebanon won the event with a 351 and Christina Pfefferkorn of Guerin Catholic fired a 73 to take medalist honors.
NorthWood will welcome in over a dozen teams, including Wawasee and Warsaw, at its home invitational on Thursday at McCormick Creek. Tee off is a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m.