By Mike Deak
ELKHART – NorthWood girls golf head coach Adam Yoder has a penchant for knowing his history. A student of the game, but also a servant to his program’s storied history, Yoder knew his team could be in position for some special accolades with a good day at Saturday’s Northern Lakes Conference Girls Golf Championships.
History was made, indeed.
NorthWood claimed its ninth NLC team championship with a 348 at Bent Oak, a full 18 shots better than runner-up Plymouth. The win moved the Panthers into first place all-time in championships, leaving Warsaw in second with eight. Medalist Cybil Stillson, to the surprise of no one at the tournament, also made history by shooting a 73 to claim honors for the fourth straight year, a feat only accomplished by former state champion Emily Johnson of Warsaw from 2003-06.
“We felt like all we had to do was finish second,” Yoder said, whose team finished the round robin 7-0. “If it wasn’t Warsaw, we’re still champs. We felt like we were secure, but you still want to win it outright. But for people like Cybil, you want to see her get that fourth in a row, make some history. I’ve known her since she was a little tyke. For her to stand with Emily Johnson as winning four, that is so hard to do. You look at all those players Emily had to beat back then, and all the girls Cybil beat, that’s quite an accomplishment.”
Added Stillson of being a part of history, “I think we all know in our heads but we don’t verbally talk about it with each other. We’re all different but we all want to succeed as a team.” Stillson was just one over par for the day, a full 11 shots better than runner-up Annastasia Hutchings of Plymouth.
Stillson’s four championships add to a growing list of NorthWood dominance at the top of the leaderboards at the NLC. NorthWood individuals have won 10 of the last 14 tournament medalist honors, Cybil joining Summer Stillson (2016), Linnzie Richner (2015), Heidi Morganthaler (2012-13) and Amy Thompson (2008-09).
There was some mild intrigue on whether NorthWood could be caught after Warsaw clipped NorthWood by two at last weekend’s Broncho Invite with the same lineups in play. But at Battle Ground, NorthWood had its 3-4-5 shooters fall well off the pace while Warsaw had a trio of career days. At Bent Oak, NorthWood came back to its proverbial form with Riley Kitson at 85, Bre Goss at 86 and Bella Sechrist at 104.
Warsaw would counter with a 93 from Abigail Davis, matching her best showing from the Broncho, along with a 90 from Marie Frazzetta and an 85 from Olivia Robinson-Gay, the 85 good for third place in the tournament, Robinson-Gay’s best-ever tournament finish. Abbey Peterson’s 102 was the fourth keeper, which landed Warsaw third at 370, six behind the Pilgrims.
“It’s just been coming down to our three, four and five,” said Warsaw head coach David James. “When they are on, like last week, we played how we know deep down we can play. Then today, Abbey had an off day, Delaney (Byron) had an off day, and those haven’t happened often lately. You’ll have that in this sport. You knew it would come, you just hoped it wouldn’t happen today.”
Wawasee would toil with the third wave of teams, posting a 433 to finish sixth in the tournament standings and fifth overall after the round robin factor. Taylor Cripe once again was the top shooter for the Warriors with a 97, and Morgan Reel took the second spot with a 104. Rylee Firestone at 106 and Ayla Torres at 126 were the three and four for the olive drab and white-clad girls from Syracuse.
“Taylor had a rough finish today but otherwise played a pretty good round,” said Wawasee head coach Steve Coverstone. “She had a couple tough breaks on well hit shots, bad bounces that ended up in bad spots. She just has to forget about that back nine today and come back next week and play the way she knows how to play.
“We just have to play one shot at a time. It’s easy to say and very hard to do.”
NorthWood has won seven of the last 13 NLC tournaments (2009, 2015-19, 2021).
NorthWood (348), Plymouth (364), Warsaw (370), Concord (396), Goshen (420), Wawasee (433), Northridge (447), Mishawaka (459).