By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – On the University of Notre Dame campus, there is a plaque among the halls of the Joyce Center that celebrates the 1974 Notre Dame basketball program, the streak busters that ended UCLA’s vaunted 88-game dominance in what many consider as one of the great upsets in sports history.
While Concord isn’t claiming an all-timer by any means, it’s low key celebration Saturday afternoon in winning the Northern Lakes Conference Girls Golf Championship for the first time ever, it did slay what has been one of the true dynasties in area golf.
NorthWood had been the eight-time defending NLC champion in golf, and not just by defaults, but had been enjoying some solid blowouts in recent years. Concord changed that in August, defeating NorthWood at its invitational and then head-to-head to hand the Panthers its first loss in the conference, dating back to when Oprah was still on daytime, Prince William and Kate were still in the honeymoon phase and Kim and Kanye weren’t even a thing yet.
Concord made good on its historical footnote, winning its title outright with a 333, seven strokes better than NorthWood’s 340. Off in the distance was a shorthanded Warsaw in third with a 386, followed by Plymouth (391), Goshen (393), Wawasee (394), Northridge (433) and Mishawaka (447).
“We just flat out got beat, plain and simple,” offered Adam Yoder, NorthWood head coach. “I’m more convinced, though, about our ability to finish as a top three in a regional than I was last night. We just made too many big numbers today. Bre had a big number, Riley had a big number, Abbie had big numbers. Cybil bogeyed where she doesn’t usually do that. When you don’t play well, you don’t win championships.
“Hats off to Concord, they came out here today and played great golf. They deserve every bit of that title.”
All four of the Minutemen scores were in the top nine of the tournament. Belle Brunner shot a 76 in regulation to tie NorthWood’s Cybil Stillson for top score of the match. Their tiebreaker details in a moment. Brooke Watson and Gracie Tucker went 82-85 and Evelyn Theinert shot a 90 for the champs.
NorthWood’s Bre Goss was potentially one hole away from being medalist herself. The junior shot a 77, but a quad on the 12th was her big blemish, a hole that only five golfers in the entire tournament managed par. Richner posted a 90 and Riley Kitson came in at 97 for NorthWood’s scoring four.
On to Stillson and Brunner’s bonus golf. The two replayed No. 18 for honors, and Stillson was on the green in two while Brunner’s second shot went into the pines. In her best Homer Simpson meme impersonation, Brunner backed into the tree, but got out of trouble and eventually bogeyed the hole after her chip on four stopped about six inches from the pin. Stillson uncharacteristically three-putted the hole, and the two went over to No. 1, where Brunner again found shrubbery while Stillson was on in two. This time, Brunner’s out and approach weren’t close while Stillson two-putted, giving her the title.
“I felt like my ball striking was good today, I think off the tee saved me a few times,” Stillson said of her third straight medalist round. Stillson admitted she had never played South Shore before, only walking it watching her sister, Summer, play the course in year’s past. Summer walked the course while Cybil played Saturday. “I just set myself up good in the fairways and got it on the green. I didn’t make too many putts, but I just stayed even keel and finished the round.”
On down the line was Warsaw, sitting third with a 386 that coach David James said didn’t exemplify what his team was capable of. Marie Frazzetta, usually the steady rock at No. 1, fell back out of the top 15 with a 99. Instead, it was Olivia Robinson-Gay who had the low score for the Tigers with an 89. Sydney Lancaster came in at 93 and Brooklyn Fitzgerald from the five-spot posted a 105.
Warsaw’s lineup was light without the services of Delaney Byron, still nursing a back injury but is likely to return before the sectional next week at the Tigers’ home course of Stonehenge.
“Getting her healthy, getting her in, getting her back into the groove and making sure that we are all ship shape and ready to go,” James said of Byron and his roster as a whole. Byron normally plays as a No. 2 or No. 3. “We had our ups and downs, but overall, I’m really pleased with how we scored and how we played.”
Wawasee was even further down the list, unable to take advantage of knowing the course as well as anyone playing having already hosted the Wawasee Invite at South Shore earlier in the season and having the local edge. But an 89 from Taylor Cripe stood as the top score, which did land sixth overall, and scores of 93 from Tate Cowan, 96 from Rylee Firestone and 116 from Delaney Delagrange were all keepers for the Warriors.
“Off the tee we did alright, we had trouble on the greens which these greens aren’t that tough. But we had problems on them,” stated Wawasee head coach Steve Coverstone. “Rylee Firestone shot a 96 today and she has gotten a lot better.
“We’ve got four of our top six player that have never played varsity before.”
Wawasee, Warsaw, NorthWood and Plymouth all will use their final week to prep for the Warsaw Sectional at Stonehenge next Saturday. Concord, Goshen and Northridge will battle at Cobblestone in the East Noble Sectional.