SOUTH BEND — A bad front nine has always meant a bad back nine for Taylor Skibinski.
The Michigan City sophomore broke out of her old ways in Saturday's 23rd annual New Prairie Invitational at Elbel Park, where she rebounded from a 44 start with a 39 finish to shoot an 83 that was good enough for third place in the 13-team event.
"They say it's a whole new nine, but I didn't believe it until today," Skibinski said. "Usually, when I have a bad nine, it stays that way. The front nine was horrible, but I just told myself on 10, just get your act together, it's another whole nine to play, you'll be fine."
As it turned out, she was. Skibinski was 1-over on the back before a double bogey on the 18th, but was still pleased with her ability to regroup.
"My chipping and putting weren't the greatest, but my drives were exceptionally good and my irons were super good," she said.
Skibinski's round helped the Wolves to a 366 team score and a runner-up finish behind Penn (364), whose lineup was missing two of its top five.
"They've got kids who play soccer, too, and a couple of them went to soccer," Wolves coach Drew White said. "I'd like to think we were the second-best team on the course on this particular day. I see the two-stroke margin and think about a lip-out here or a stray shot there that could make a difference, but we won the sectional by one shot last year, so I know occasionally you're going to come up a little short. This is definitely a step in the right direction."
Lia Thomas shot an 85, Sara Poulin a 95 and Jayda Peters a 104, her best 18-hole score "by far."
"Not only was (Peters) our fourth scorer, she was a really good fourth scorer," White said. "Lia struggled and Taylor struggled, but they were still able to finish top five in a huge field."
Rose Trippel of Mishawaka Marian (77) edged Penn's Lyvia Li by a shot. Skibinski was third (83) and Marquette freshman Daniela Bellido tied for fourth with an 84, even after losing five strokes to par on holes nine and 10.
"The course was really difficult because I hadn't played here before," Bellido said. "I was hoping for eight-over, but I did OK."
New Prairie finished sixth with a 406, its best 18-hole score in eight, nine years, according to coach Bruce Watson.
"Our goal was to shoot under 400 and we were real close, so I can't complain," Watson said. "Our three played her best round and our four played her best round."
Jordan Winters led the Cougars with an 87, five strokes better than her prior best 18-hole score, and Zoie Martinez picked up the slack for freshman Jaiden Winters, who struggled to a 104, while Beth Armstrong posted a 113.
"The holes were curved a lot for my shorter shots where you couldn't see the pins, so I had to shoot my irons well and I really did," Jordan Winters said. "I putted really well. I wanted to break into the 80s. I'd never done it before. Jaiden's doing really good for her freshman year. She's definitely better than I was when I was a freshman. I'm proud of her. It's good competition. We're always wanting to beat each other. We've been tying frequently."
La Porte came in 11th with a 436 behind the trio of Gabby Hull (105), Jayme Noll (106) and Lauren Miskowicz (107).
"Our goal was to shoot 440, so I'm glad we were able to crush it," LP coach Libbie Gilliland said. "The girls played well. It was fun. We celebrated with ice cream. (Our lineup)'s varied a lot. We've been playing off (for spots) in practice. It's nice to have that back-up."
Marquette (12th) posted a 444 in its first 18-hole tournament on a regulation-length course.
"It was good for the girls to come out and play 18 holes," Blazers coach Bill Luegers said. "We don't play many during the course of the season, so it's a good warmup for sectionals."
New Prairie Invitational
Michigan City finished second with a 366.