By Adam Yoder
NAPPANEE – Since last season’s sixth place finish at the state finals, the NorthWood girls golf team has been dreaming of the one-two junior punch of Cybil Stillson and Breanna Goss being a big key to their success this season. That premonition is starting to take shape.
Saturday afternoon in Anderson, the duo combined to go 77 and 78, respectively, and on Monday night in a dual nine-hole match with Fairfield on McCormick Creek’s front nine, the two combined for a three-under-par 69.
Stillson carded seven pars and two birdies on her way to a 34, and Goss fired a 35, with a bogey, two birdies, and six pars right behind her classmate to give the Panthers a 162-229 victory over the visiting Falcons.
After a ‘sloppy’ performance by Stillson’s standards on Saturday at the Lapel Invitational, the junior commented, “I’ve been spending a lot of time working on putting lately, just working on my stroke, seeing my lines, and Saturday, I just didn’t putt well at all. I felt much more comfortable tonight.”
The standout junior, who has two invitational victories already this season, is starting to feel comfortable with some recent swing changes.
“I feel like I’m striking the ball well and making confident swings over the ball,” noted Stillson. “I am now starting to own my swing and when I step up to the ball, I don’t think, I just swing to my target. It felt really solid tonight.”
The early season success and promise that Goss displayed in two invitationals in Lafayette (79 and 82) and at the NorthWood Invitational (74) had left her when some issues with her swing led to some recent bad days. Goss rebounded nicely after a week of work with a top-ten finish in at the Lapel Invite on Saturday and was able to fire her first under-par nine-hole score in a high school match Monday night. Goss nearly missed her second eagle in as many events as her third shot from off the green on the par five eighth finished on the lip of the cup.
A flurry of excellent short-game shots and some excellent putting (thirteen total) helped Goss break par. “I’ve been working very hard on my short game on my own, and before and after practice.”
No Panther played more tournament rounds over the summer than Goss, so to have a little hiccup in her scores early in the season was frustrating for the junior.
“It was hard, but I learned a lot too,” offered the junior No. 2. “I have to accept my swing on a given day and fight through the bad days.”
Goss has now played her last 54 holes in competition at five over par.
Senior Abbie Richner struggled to a 50 on the night, but sophomore Riley Kitson shot a career-low 43 to pick up for her teammate. Bella Sechrist rounded out the scoring for the ‘Wood with a 57.
Fairfield was led by Trinity Ruiz’s 52.
The win puts NorthWood at 1-0 on the season. Coach Yoder’s teams have always played a very minimal nine-hole schedule in exchange for loading up on eighteen-hole events. This will be their only nine match before next Tuesday’s clash at Bent Oak Golf Course in Elkhart versus the IHSGCA 14th ranked Panthers and the No. 18-ranked Concord Minutemen.
Before the NLC regular season starts, the Panthers will be in action at Stonehenge Golf Club in Winona Lake on Saturday. NorthWood will play with defending state champion Homestead, the host Tigers, and Concord in the 12-team field. Players in that group begin play at 11:40 a.m.