Avon Lake is on a record run as the first Division I girls bowling team from Lorain County to make the state tournament.
Just don’t consider the Shoregals satisfied.
They head to Columbus, in just the third year of the program, motivated to finish the job.
The task is simple, but not easy: Make it out of the qualifying round this morning as one of eight teams to reach the championship round.
“I would really like to see our spirits go up because that really influences the way that we bowl,” sophomore Chloe Smith said. “It’s all about the attitude. I’m really hoping that we keep the positive attitudes up and keep each other’s emotions up and ready for that pressure.”
Avon Lake squeezed into the state tournament by 18 pins Feb. 24, taking home the sixth and final qualifying berth from the district at Roseland Lanes. Avon Lake rallied from a 31-pin deficit in the final two rounds of the six-round Baker to pass Berea-Midpark.
The 12-day break before state hasn’t bothered the Shoregals.
“Every day is almost a new mark, a new shot,” Smith said. “We value every single day we can get because it helps us to become more prepared for what we have to face.”
Junior Amber Warthman led Avon Lake at districts with a 498 series. Smith (484), junior Rayana Meyers (469), senior Kayleigh Reimueller (459) and senior Lexi Cline (453) rounded out the top five.
“At districts we all really came together and that helped us,” Warthman said. “I think just coming every day and giving it our all at practice is helping us out a lot. We are all improving on this pattern.”
The high school had a pep rally Wednesday afternoon to recognize the team and give it a proper send-off to state. Even the marching band joined the party.
“It’s really cool,” Warthman said. “A lot of people have come up to me and said congratulations, even my teachers. I didn’t picture this in my mind at the beginning of the season that anything like this would happen for us. Our coaches told us that we’re eight of the 128 girls that get to participate at state and out of 2,000 girls overall (statewide). It’s crazy that we’re the ones that are going to have this opportunity.”
Meyers led Avon Lake with a 167 average in the regular season, followed by Warthman (159), Reimueller (158), Smith (152) and Cline (148).
“We just really have to keep our attitudes up,” Meyers said. “I really think that’s going to be the key factor in how we do. We’ve been building on our attitude all year. Districts has been the high point where it brought it all together. Our coaches have emphasized it all year. Districts was when we were finally able to pull it together and showcase the positive attitude and how it can impact the results.”
The Shoregals got their minds right — and got hot — at the right time.
After three regular games in the sectional, Avon Lake trailed Amherst by 70 pins for the fourth qualifying spot. The Shoregals outscored the Comets 855-726 in Baker to qualify for the district in fourth place by 59 pins.
“We’re going to go into it and try to have fun,” Meyers said of the state tourney. “We made it this far and it’s important to think about how far we’ve come and just have a good time at state.”
Avon Lake earned the ticket to state by defeating Berea-Midpark and North Olmsted, teams that had beat the Shoregals at the sectional and at the Southwestern Conference tournament.
“They’ve worked very, very hard five days a week, 1½ hours at a time,” said assistant Rich Williams, the varsity boys coach. “Sometimes they were coming in on weekends. It finally got to the point they realized that if they hit their target they knew then that it was going to be a strike. Or when they adjusted for a spare they knew when they hit their target they made the spare, instead of delivering the ball and hoping for a spare or a strike. That confidence level really made them take off as a team. From where some of them started two years ago when the program first started they are really looking good.”
Avon Lake finished at the bottom of the sectional the last two years, nowhere close to qualifying for districts. The Shoregals finished 11th of 12 teams in 2018 with a 2,574 pin fall and 11th of 11 teams in 2017 with a 2,109 total.
“I hope that if they find themselves struggling that they’ll remember where they are and how they got there and again have fun,” Williams said. “Their jubilation was evident at districts when they knew they were going to state. When they keep that kind of enthusiasm in competition, that’s the perfect combination when they’re scoring well and having fun.”
Avon Lake finished sixth in the final SWC standings behind Westlake, Berea-Midpark, North Olmsted, Amherst and Midview. It finished fourth behind North Olmsted, Berea-Midpark and Midview in the final North Shore Bowling Conference Division 1 standings.
“Our goal besides the girls having fun is reach the top eight, so we can get to battle in that event,” coach Bill Gallagher said of the championship round. “We’re going to be behind the girls making sure that they hit their mark and are making spares.
“We also have three quality bowlers on the bench to help out. Our goal is to take our team up the ranks. We’re going to try to find the best mix of these girls. We don’t even know what we’re going to do to start our lineup at this moment until we get there and see how they react on the lanes.”