When you discuss sports in the Joliet area at any level, bowling always has been a big part of the talk.
You won’t find many high school sports in which the area has had as much success at the state level as girls bowling.
The area will be represented at this weekend’s state meet at Cherry Bowl in Rockford by four teams, the most since 2014. Lockport and Lincoln-Way West are coming off sectional titles, and Minooka and Joliet West also qualified. Three individuals also will represent the area, as seniors Megan Allensworth of Plainfield Central and Bekah Sayers of Plainfield North will join junior Kayla Dench from Plainfield East.
The tournament gets underway Friday. The top 12 teams from the original 24 move on to Saturday, along with the top 30 individuals not on an advancing team.
DELROSE & LOCKPORT
Along with all the success and tradition the area has had, this year also includes one of the best bowlers the area and perhaps the state have ever produced – Lockport’s Bailey Delrose.
Delrose, a senior left-hander, has had a season unlike what anyone can remember. She has won 10 of 11 tournaments, has a 229 average over 90-plus games and is the clear favorite to win the individual title and help the Porters win their fourth consecutive state trophy.
With Delrose a part of the team, the Porters finished second last year, third in 2016 and won the 2015 title. Delrose bowled a 300 game as a freshman in the first game of the Saturday finals.
“In 21 years of high school coaching, Bailey is the best I have ever seen,” Lockport coach Art Cwudzinski said. “I’ve been around this sport most of my life, and she is the one bowler I can honestly say that everyone should have a chance to see her bowl. She has broken all the school records, and to win all but one tournament this year has been incredible. It not only shows the talent she has, but how hard she has worked at her game.
“I know Bailey wants to win as an individual, but the best thing is she is a team-first athlete. It’s about the team success first with her.”
Lockport entered the season having graduated a veteran group but again has put together a solid team, as all the other seven bowlers have contributed in a big way. Senior Kaelin Miller, junior Katelyn Bacys, sophomores Jessica Ramirez and Samantha Traina and freshmen Chloe Siezega and Maghan Bacys join Delrose on the roster.
“I thought we would be competitive this year, but it’s a testament to the hard work these kids have put in over the 38 weeks we are not together as a team,” Cwudzinski said. “You have to give all the girls and their parents the credit for the offseason work they put in. It’s not easy and can be expensive to not only bowl, but getting the right equipment.”
Lincoln-Way West is coming off its first sectional title in school history and will be making its second state trip. The Warriors finished 13th in 2015.
“The first time we went to state we finished 13th, and our goal is to be in the top 12 after the first day and bowl on Saturday,” Warriors coach Scott Jablonski said. “We are one of the top 24 teams in the state of Illinois, and we are going to Rockford to enjoy the experience, keep the same team attitude and just bowl our games.”
Alexandria Kupske and Emily Paul are the only seniors on the Warriors’ roster. They are joined by juniors Elizabeth Prynn and Hannah Hospodar, sophomores Mackenzie Ullian and Olivia Daujatas and freshmen Hallie Hospodar and Leah Zack.
Ullian finished second in the sectional and comes from a bowling-rich family. Her father, Scott, is the Lincoln-Way West boys coach, and her brother, Eric, won a 2017 sectional and was a member of the team that finished ninth at state.
“The support I get from my family has been great,” Ullian said. “Everyone has been there for me, and our goal is to make it to Saturday and then see what happens.”
The youngest team in the field comes from Minooka. The Indians have juniors Gina Russell, Kristina Sickler and Janey Schmidt, sophomore Alyssa Ritchie and four freshmen in Kiara Backstrom, Megan Gillson, Jenna Newton and Ashley Driscoll. But don’t let the youth of the team fool you. They are talented. Minooka is making its third consecutive trip to the finals.
“All season we have talked about the process and getting better week to week,” Minooka coach Frank Yudzentis said. “That has happened with this team, and if it continues, we will be be just fine in Rockford. This team has fun, they stay relaxed and continue to work the process that we have established for this program.”
Joliet West will return to the site of its 2016 state championship. The Tigers missed a trip to state last year.
“It really feels good to be going back,” Tigers coach Jeff Bailey said. “This team has really come together and battled, especially the last two weeks. We were in eighth place after the first game in both the regional and sectional. Some teams would not have come back from that, but that shows the character of this team and their togetherness. The goal is always the same: Make it to Saturday, and then anything can happen.”
The Tigers have a mixed team with seniors Emily Preece and Alexis Wagner, juniors Camryn Feehan, Maddy Wharry and Alexis Robbins, sophomores Barbara Lunsford and Taylor Wagner and freshman Brooklinn Chavez.
With five team titles, four runner-up finishes and five individual titles in the history of state bowling for the Joliet area, this group is primed to continue the tradition.