BUSINESS WILL PICK UP IN A HURRY
Ink Free News / Sports on Wednesday, September 22, 2021
By Mike Deak
KENDALLVILLE – As much as the golfers had to play the course, there wasn’t a terrible amount of drama for the frontrunners at the Warsaw Girls Golf Sectional. That will change this Friday as focus shifts to the East Noble Girls Golf Regional.
Just about everyone outside of Warsaw and maybe Plymouth expected NorthWood to cruise to a title, and the Panthers did, winning the sectional by 29 strokes over the Pilgrims. It was the fourth straight title by the Panthers, which had the top three shooters in the tournament in Cybil Stillson (72), Breanna Goss (75) and Riley Kitson (77). There wasn’t much drama once the trio got going, really only leaving Plymouth and Warsaw keep pace and attempt to distance itself from darkhorses Tippy and Wawasee from making a charge.
All three Northern Lakes Conference schools, which not surprisingly went one-two-three at the NLC Championships two weeks ago, will join the fray at the regional, which was bumped up to Friday at Noble Hawk. The power trio of NorthWood, Fort Wayne Carroll and Homestead will begin its tee times at 10:14 a.m. on the first hole. The mega-group has all three entering as champions from their sectionals, and are three of the four ranked teams in the field. No. 6 Homestead, No. 18 NorthWood and HM Carroll will battle together, with No. 14 Penn teeing off No. 10 at the same time, grouped with Plymouth and Marian.
Homestead is far and away the favorite, having shot a 300 to win its sectional, and boasting of the ability to shoot in the high 200s. The defending state runner-up also has a dynamic duo at the top in Simone Sink and Madison Dabagia, Sink a 71 and Dabagia a 72 at Timber Ridge last weekend. Carroll shot a 323 at Cobblestone led by Marissa GeRue’s 75.
NorthWood is competing in its 11th straight regional, but has never won a regional title, finishing second five times, including each of the last three years. A host of historical program escalators are attached to Friday’s round for NorthWood, which is confident it can continue to write its story.
“A lot of prep for Noble Hawk to go over there and practice,” said NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder. “Today (at the sectional) was not a peak, this was a spring board. If they can wrap their mind around that, I like our chances in preparing for Noble Hawk. Traditionally we have low scores over there.”
Penn comes into the regional with some of the match pressure off of it with the draw, sitting as champion of the Penn Sectional at its home Knollwood, but after Delaney Wade’s 72, the Kingsmen scores slide into the high 80s and low 90s. Marian was just five strokes back of Penn at the sectional, with runner-up Selah Unwin at 74.
NorthWood owns a win over Penn at the NorthWood Invite.
Huntington North and Fort Wayne Snider also come in as sectional champions, the Vikings paired with Warsaw and Columbia City in a group that will begin teeing the first hole at 9:34 a.m. The Tigers haven’t been to the state finals since 2011, but have seen their performance ramp up in recent weeks. Led by Olivia Robinson-Gay and Maria Frazzetta, the team has shaved off over 30 strokes from its average in early August, and could be a sneaky pick for the third spot if everything goes right.
“It is a long shot, and we’re now the team in the shadows,” reasoned Warsaw head coach David James. “Now we can play behind the scenes. We might not be able to shave the 30-35 strokes to get out as a team, but I can get one or two out as individuals. It’s constantly looking at goals, to stay motivated as a team, but also for the individuals to consider that as well.”
Also in the field from the NLC include Wawasee’s Rylee Firestone, who is making her first regional appearance after shooting an 89 at Stonehenge, Northridge’s Karisa Dyer and Mishawaka’s Grace Vandenburg, and Goshen’s team, which took third at Cobblestone.
The Three Rivers Conference has a fair amount of representation with both Northfield and Wabash teams in the field, along with Tippecanoe Valley’s Madelyn Weaver and Rochester’s Ava Thomas. Weaver returns to the regional for the second straight year after the Vikings made the regional round as a team in 2020, then shooting an 87 to take the first of three individual positions at Stonehenge. Firestone and Thomas are to tee at 8:38 with Weaver eight minutes later.
“Madelyn has been solid for us all year, and today was no different,” said Valley head coach Thadd Mellott on Saturday. “She has the ability to play with just about anyone out here, and I feel like she has as good of a shot as any at the regional.”
The top three teams plus the top five individuals from the East Noble regional will advance to the IHSAA State Finals.