By John Bassetti
Hubbard High’s defending state runner-up girls team returns five bowlers while Champion’s Danny Simmons — the boys’ individual state champion — is back as a junior.
Hubbard coach Carol Kozbial has the luxury of five seniors: Brittany Ferrara, twins Sarah Wise and Jenna Wise, Lauren Miller and Christina Leckfor.
Ferrara and the Wises are the ones expected to carry the load, while Miller and Leckfor are those who gained the most experience as juniors. Hubbard’s 2011-12 team finished behind Coldwater.
Miller, junior Miranda Romano and freshman Michalia Dudley round out the roster of bowlers with spare-shooting skills. They are expected to fill the vacated positions from last year as the Eagles go through matches and tournament play.
“We should come together more as a team this year — a more well-rounded team,” said Kozbial, who lost Amanda Wess and Samantha Dudley.
Wess was the third-highest individual at the state tournament at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, while Dudley — Michalia’s sister — was fifth in 2011-12.
Kozbial’s 2010-2011 squad was also a state runner-up, while, in 2009-10, Hubbard finished third behind state champion Boardman.
“This group of seniors has had quite a run at state the last three-four years,” Kozbial said. “We’re hoping that the experience will carry us through the season so we could bring home a beautiful gold trophy.”
In March, Simmons led a 15-player All-Ohio team when he rolled 702, although Champion placed ninth.
The Golden Flashes under coach Bryan Gill had a 15-1 regular-season record.
Fitch and Boardman were among the area schools at the “Kick-Off Classic” at The Palace in Columbus on Saturday.
“That’s the best indicator of which schools are the early-season favorites,” said Fran Miller, the sectional tournament manager for the Mahoning/Trumbull and Lake County tournaments, as well as an assistant for the Northeast district and state tournaments.
Fitch’s senior-less boys team finished fourth at state in 2011-2012, so that could only mean good things for the All-American Conference’s American division Falcons.
“Hopefully, we’ll be just as successful,” coach Dino Balkan said.
“Our boys want to better last year’s finish,” said Balkan, who has eight returning lettermen back: seniors D.J. Learn, Corey Cox, John Greenlund, Chris Mauro and Tim Ponzi and juniors Kyle Condrick, Kyle Sharisky and Matt Cox.
JV squad members — junior Dane Coast and freshman Dakota Gorgie — also will see some time at varsity.
Condrick is the reigning player-of-the-year in the All-American Conference American Division.
“This group is not taking last year’s success for granted,” Balkan said. “We are striving to improve in every facet of the game — from picking up spares to getting the clutch strike.
“Every pin counts and every one of these young men knows that’s the difference between a win or a loss. They had a taste of what it was like to compete for the state title and they want to finish the job this year.”
Bob Eisenbraun Jr.’s Struthers boys team beat Fitch twice during the regular season then ended up 13th at state.
The Al Dohar-coached Boardman Spartans also will participate in the “Team USA Experience Tournament” in Dayton on Dec. 15.
On Wednesday, Hubbard’s David Clayton had a 300 game at Wedgewood in the Eagles’ 2794-2527 loss to Canfield. Clayton’s first game was 255. The perfect game was his second in high school competition.
In its first match last week, Girard’s girls beat Liberty. Lexi Cloud bowled 214 and 205 for the Indians, whose AAC National Division is shared with Liberty, Campbell, Lakeview, LaBrae and Champion. Later in the week in a win over Champion, Cloud rolled a two-game 407.
Liberty senior Marissa Simon, who placed 22nd at state in 2011-12, is the Leopards’ best weapon.
On the coaching front, Sarah Letscher takes over the Canfield girls team from Howie Mancini and LaBrae’s Jim and John Varley have stepped aside. The Vikings’ new coaches are John Wolford (boys) and Adrienne Bland (girls).
At Maplewood, Tim Pappagallo’s replacement is Mark McCloskey, a 20-plus-year bowler who takes over the boys team that went 14-0 in 2011-12 with now-departed Zach Thompson as top gun.