Frustration mounted during the initial 11 holes of Kelly Grassel's round Friday, but the defending state medalist never let the situation seep too deep into her psyche.
"I missed two greens and I wasn't making putts," she said. "I knew I couldn't let it get to me. I just kept doing what I was doing, and sure enough, I dropped one."
The Chesterton senior made a birdie-2 on the next hole, No. 3 at the Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin, and finished the round ahead with a 3-under 69 at the IHSAA state girls golf finals.
She added short birdies on her 14th and final holes, surpassing her previous best state round by four strokes. She leads East Noble's Katherine Sharp by one stroke heading into today's final round.
This round was in stark contrast to last Saturday's 80 at the Lafayette Jeff Regional.
"I knew I was capable of coming back," said the Michigan State recruit, who leads at state for the first time after 18 holes. "I love playing here at state, and I had a good attitude about it.
"There's definitely pressure (leading), but I'm fortunate to be in this position. I'm excited to be in it."
Grassel's classmate Marissa Kroeger was disqualified from the opening round after signing a card with an incorrect score.
Chesterton coach Dale Hewitt said it was an accident, adding that Kroeger turned herself in. The entire team remains supportive of Kroeger, who is scheduled to play today.
"Can you please put this in?" Grassel asked. "Marissa's been an awesome player for us. She's my best friend, and she always will be."
Chesterton enters the final round in ninth with a 340. Fifth golfer and freshman Grace Davis responded to the pressure with a personal-best 89 — her first sub-90 prep round.
Yorktown has the team lead at 319.
Valparaiso is tied for sixth at 334, led by Harley Dubsky's 74. Dubsky, who's finished in the top 10 her previous two seasons, is five strokes from Grassel and tied for eighth.
"My putts were all around the cup, but I guess they just didn't want to go in," she said. "I still stuck with my routine.
"I just wanted to be close. I wasn't going to throw myself out of it and give up. I'm ready to go after it (today)."
Teammates Jennifer Gough (80) and Brooke Fullenkamp (84) also posted sub-90 rounds for the Vikings.
Lake Central's Kiana Jongsma matched Fullenkamp's 84. Indians coach Chris Rossiano was pleased with the play of his junior.
"She played a lot better than her 84. A few chip shots let her down," Rossiano said. "In her first time at state, with all of that pressure, I thought she did pretty well."
Teammate Kylie Shoemake added a 91. Under the new state finals format, every player has a chance to play both rounds. Rossiano believes that will benefit Shoemake.
"She played a little timid; a lot of putts didn't get to the hole," he said of Shoemake. "She can now focus on playing a decent round. It gives her a second chance."
Crown Point freshman Tiffany Curtis finished with a 99.
"She actually did a lot of things really well," Crown Point coach Jon Haas said of Curtis. "She got caught up in the rough, but I was pleased with the way she hung in there.
"I think it will important for her to back out (today) with a round under her belt and not have to end the season on a low note."