The Jonathan Alder girls bowling team wasn’t happy with its ninth-place finish in last year’s Division II state championship meet, that alone speaks volumes on how far the Lady Pioneers program has come in such a short period of time.
Being one of the best teams in the state has become the norm, the team is now looking to reach higher this season.
Alder returns five of the six bowlers who competed at the the state tournament a year ago. With another year under their belts coach Rusty Walter’s team has raised its level of expectation.
“This is a fun, has talented, competitive upperclassmen who have been bowling for a while together and enjoy bowling together,” the coach said.
“Yes, we have state tournament expectations this year. The ladies were more than disappointed in their ninth-place finish last season and want to improve that finish. Our goals are to defend our (Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference) championship, defend our district championship and make our third trip in a row to the state championships.”
The team welcomes the return of senior standouts Mackenzie Heimlich and Trisha Fox, along with juniors Rena Kirts, Rachel Kaeser and Hallie Nichols. Reserve bowlers include juniors Regina Campbell, Tabitha Bartoe, Janelle McNeil and freshman Cierra Clark and Jenna Foust.
The Pioneers have one of the best bowlers in the entire state in Heimlich and a solid performer in Fox leading the way.
“The seniors Mackenzie and Trisha will lead the team in the setup and anchors spots,” the coach said. “Mackenzie is one of the state’s top girl bowlers, is a great powerful player who is being recruited by Urbana University, Wright State University and Ohio State University.
“Mack bowled all summer and has worked on her game a lot for this upcoming season. As Mack continues to work on her spare game she can be as good as any young lady in Ohio. Trisha just keeps improving and improving each time out, she has a nice bowling game and hooks it up pretty good.”
Those two along with the other returnees give the Pioneers a solid nucleus.
“We’re expecting solid years from Rena and Rachel. Rena, our lone lefty has a nice down and in game, getting her to match up equipment to the lanes is crucial to her success. Rachel just gets better and better we expect some great scores from her this year. This will be Hallie’s (Nichols) first full time year on the varsity, she works a lot on her game and her steady improvement all season will help the team’s overall success this season.”
The biggest thing that cost the Pioneers at the state tournament was spare conversions. The team left too many frames open, costing the squad a chance to finish much higher. That has been a major emphasis this year.
“Spares, spares, spares and more spares,” Walter said. “All of us who bowl a lot can toss our fair share of strikes, having confidence in shooting single pin spares is another thing. These ladies can strike, and they strike a lot. If they work on their spare game and it continues to improve they will be tough to beat. When the lane conditions are hard and spares win the games, we will have the confidence to do it.
“Last season the ladies won five tournament championships, everybody is going to be gunning for them this year. We are improved, stronger and tournament tested from last year. Keeping them focused each week to the task at hand will be the coaching staff’s goal.
“The girl’s team has a target on them and we’ll find out if they can step up and wear that target with pride.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.