WINONA LAKE — Last September, NorthWood’s Heidi Morganthaler fell a little short in her bid for a state berth. She may have lost that East Noble Girls Regional playoff, but she learned a valuable lesson along the way, a lesson she applied en route to the individual Warsaw Sectional championship Saturday.
Morganthaler beat out Rochester’s Kovenant Lingenfelter in a one-hole playoff for the individual championship, while NorthWood fell two points shy of Rochester with a 351 in the Lady Panthers’ attempt at a program-first team championship, and Warsaw placed third with a 369 as the third and final team to earn a berth at next weekend’s East Noble Regional.
Plymouth carded a 391 to close out its season in fifth, meanwhile, Bremen was sixth with a 416, and Triton was eighth with a score of 427 led by Hannah Jennings’ 89, good enough to make the individual cut out to Noble Hawk next Saturday.
Morganthaler was aggressive in her playoff with Lingenfelter, booming a driver/ 3 wood hybrid from over 200 yards out onto the green of the Par 5 18th at Stonehenge to put the pressure on early. Lingenfelter chipped on in three but three-putted under duress, and Morganthaler’s eventual tap-in sealed her Warsaw Medalist honors with teammates and much of the rest of the field looking on in a gallery gathered near the 18th green.
“It feels good; I think this is actually my first playoff that I’ve ever won so it’s definitely a different feeling. I accomplished one of my goals for the season, and it feels great,” said Morganthaler.
“Last year at the playoff I didn’t play aggressive,” she recalled. “I played a club that I was comfortable with, but I could have played a 3 wood instead, and I think that’s where it got me wrong and the other girl played aggressive. Today I definitely played more aggressive. I wanted to put more pressure on her.”
“That’s something she learned last year at the regional. She lost a playoff to go to state, and that was a huge learning experience for her,” echoed NorthWood head coach Adam Yoder. “It’s kind of ironic that we come out here this time and she ends up in a playoff for medalist. I think everybody was kind of calm about her playing well that hole. Now, to get on in two, that made a big difference. She had some strokes to play with there.”
Morganthaler’s win Saturday set a new NorthWood record for most 18-hole wins in a single season, with five now coming off her record-tying turn as NLC champion at Maplecrest a week before. It was also the best individual sectional finish ever by a NorthWood golfer and one of three top-five career finishes for the Lady Panthers senior at a sectional.
Morganthaler’s individual win also made for a nice bit of revenge for her team, which was beaten out by two strokes by Rochester in its bid at a first-ever team sectional title. Linnzie Richner fired off an 86 for fifth-place individual honors for NorthWood, Summer Stillson shot 88, Rachel Beebe’s 101 completed the Panthers’ team score, and Kayla Stankovich’s 114 wound up as the squad’s fifth score.
Yoder would have been thrilled with the trophy, of course, but NorthWood’s runner-up finish still tied the program’s highest ever finish at a sectional tournament. And the Panthers live to fight another day at East Noble next weekend in their fifth team berth to the tourney in the past six seasons.
“We’re super excited about moving on to regional; it’s always one of our goals,” said Yoder. “We had the goal of winning today. We felt like if we played our game we’d win, but hat’s off to Rochester. They shot 170 on the back nine or something like that, so that’s great playing. For our first year being in this sectional, we’re pretty excited about our finish.”
Like Morganthaler, Triton’s Jennings also found a bit of redemption Saturday after a tough tournament finish last year.
The Lady Trojans top flighter fell a heartbreaking two strokes short of making the individual cut out of the Warsaw Sectional last season, but she shaved a full 13 strokes off that tally with an 86 for the second ticket out to East Noble among individuals advancing without a team Saturday.
“The past two years I’ve missed going to regionals by just a few strokes, and this year it feels good to actually get out,” said Jennings.
“Our sectional is so tough, and I knew that I had to be below 90 to have a shot at even making it to regional. It feels really good to beat my score last year by more than 10 strokes. That’s amazing.”
“I’m very pleased for Hannah; she’s the one girl that works at it in the summertime and goes to tournaments, plays the junior tourney, plays the Pepsi events,” said Triton head coach Jack Carpenter. “I’m pleased with what she shot, but she could be a lot better. I think her best golf’s ahead of her. If she ever develops her short game to be aggressive from 50 yards in.”
After making the team cut out last season on a fifth-score tiebreak with Wawasee, Plymouth finished 22 strokes off the mark needed to advance to the next stage of the state tourney Saturday. It would have been nice to advance, but with two of its top five lost to graduation last year, the young Pilgrims weren’t too disappointed.
“In the beginning (Coach Chris Tilbury) said 360, but we haven’t come anywhere close to that,” said Denney.
“A 391, I don’t know, we’ve been better, but it’s okay for the team that we have now.”
“We had younger teammates, so a couple of them haven’t played here all that much,” explained Henderson.
Denney led the team with a 93, Miranda Dunn shot 96 in her first sectional go-round, Morgan Oberley shot 98, Makayla Fox turned in a 104, and Henderson salvaged a 48 on the back side after a rough start to finish with a 105 in the top flight for Plymouth.
The Pilgrims thus close out their season, and Denney and Henderson finish out their careers with Saturday’s sectional round.
“I had a pretty good career here,” reflected Henderson. “I’ve had my ups and downs, but overall I had a pretty good year.”
“We could have done better, but I’m proud. I think we did good good, we stuck together; it was a good team,” said Denney.
After winning the Northern State Conference Tournament on their home course at Sprig O’Mint last weekend, Bremen entered Saturday’s sectional at Stonehenge with high hopes. But the Lady Lions wound up a full 41 strokes worse than their NSC-winning mark.
Kaitlyn Ahlenius was the lone Lion to break 100 with a 97 at Stonehenge, while Kayleigh Dailey shot 100, Melissa Krathwohl shot 105, and No. 1 sophomore Alex Homann carded a 114. Jamie Stafford shot 124 for Bremen’s fifth score.
The Lions’ 375 at conference still would have left the team a little short of a regional berth, but Bremen’s 416 at Stonehenge made for a tough score to end on after such a strong season.
“We were looking to break the 400 mark again,” said Bremen coach Don Harrison. “I thought my top four could score in the 90s, and we struggled off the first couple of holes and never really made it up… But they did pretty well, I think. The course is kind of new to them, and they’re going to get better.”
Finishing behind Jennings for Triton, Lizzy Erne carded a career-low 97, Lillie Berger gutted out a blister to finish at 119, Kayla Kreft completed the Trojans’ team score with 123, and Courtney Zentz shot 147 as Triton closed out its team season.
“Overall I was pleased,” said Carpenter. “The front side I think I had us at like 210 — it would have been the back side, our first nine holes — and for us that is excellent,” said the Trojans golf coach. “It was a good score for us. Usually you go to the other side, which is the front side now, and there’s usually a four- to six-shot difference. They had the course set up a little bit shorter this year than last year, where the tees are at, so that makes a little bit of a difference.”
Jennings and NorthWood will now travel to the East Noble Regional next Saturday. The meet convenes at Noble Hawk Golf Links in Kendallville at 8:30 a.m.
• WARSAW SECTIONAL
At Stonehenge Golf Club
TEAM SCORES: 1. ROCHESTER 349, 2. NORTHWOOD 351, 3. WARSAW 369, 4. WAWASEE 387, 5. PLYMOUTH 391, 6. BREMEN 416, 7. COLUMBIA CITY 425, 8. TRITON 427, 9. TIPPECANOE VALLEY 471, 10. WHITKO 478, 11. CASTON 515.
Medalist (via playoff): Heidi Morganthaler (NW) 76
ROCHESTER (349): Karsten Lingenfelter 83, Kovenant Lingenfelter 76, Kinley Lingenfelter 94, Lindsay Mitchell 96, Vanessa Henning 118.
NORTHWOOD (351): Heidi Morganthaler 76, Linnzie Richner 86, Summer Stillson 88, Rachel Beebe 101, Kayla Stankovich 114.
WARSAW (369): Nikki LaLonde 79, Elizabeth Meadows 89, Alexis Manwaring 89, Kristen Watson 112, Madi Graham 118.
PLYMOUTH (391): Kelly Henderson 105, Emily Denney 93, Miranda Dunn 96, Morgan Oberley 98, Makayla Fox 104.
BREMEN (416): Alex Homann 114, Kaitlyn Ahlenius 97, Melissa Krathwohl 105, Kayleigh Dailey 100, Jamie Stafford 124.
TRITON (427): Hannah Jennings 89, Lizzy Erne 96, Lillie Berger 119, Courtney Zentz 147, Kayla Kreft 123.