By Adam Yoder
NAPPANEE – The push toward a third straight team state finals was on the line for Oreo the Panther’s squad. When the Panthers fired a 334 at the IHSAA East Noble Regional at Noblehawk Golf Links in Kendallville in late September, NorthWood cemented a place in this year’s InkFreeNews top ten teams at number eight.
However, for the NorthWood girls golf program, a near decade of dominance in the area and ascension to a place among the state’s top programs looked to be nearing an end in late August when the Panthers’ 57 straight Northern Lakes Conference 9-hole match win streak (and 68 9-hole matches overall) came to an end when they lost to the Concord Minutemen by six strokes at Bent Oak Golf Club.
While the Panthers ran the table in the rest of the NLC slate to finish 9-1 overall on the season and had won the New Prairie Invitational earlier in the season, they fell again to the Minutemen in the NLC Championship tournament. In that ‘potential’ decline were multiple streaks that continued, though, so the rumors of the Panthers demise were certainly overstated.
Cybil Stillson won her third straight NLC individual title, head coach Adam Yoder won his ninth consecutive NLC Coach of the Year award, and the squad won its third consecutive IHSAA Warsaw Sectional.
Breanna Goss notched All-NLC first team honors for the second consecutive year and totaled six top-five finishes in 18-hole events on her way to earning All-State honors alongside Stillson. Stillson’s victories at the NorthWood, New Prairie, NLC and sectional tournaments also vaulted her 20-member Indiana HS Golf Coaches Association All-State team.
This was the first year in program history that the program had two players on the All-State team.
The lone senior on the team, Abigail Richner, grinded all throughout the regular season after suffering a wrist injury in late May that didn’t allow her to hit balls until official practice began in late July. As the tournament series hit, though, Richner, in her words, “kept up the family name,” by earning All-NLC honors and firing a season-low 82 in the regional to vault the Panthers past Concord and Penn to earn runner-up honors as a team.
The Panthers would finish 12th in the state finals, upending NLC champion Concord for the second straight weekend, with Stillson finishing 17th and Goss finishing 46th as individuals.
Riley Kitson was an All-NLC Honorable Mention selection by the NLC coaches after having one of the best five nine-hole averages in conference play.
Taking into account that Goss, Stillson and Kitson will be taking another lap for NorthWood in 21-22, and then one adds in Kira Schrock, who played two days in the State Final,s and Bella Sechrist is also returning…there may be some streaks that begin anew and continue for the Panthers.