By John Bassetti
The Hubbard High girls bowling team is defending NEO district champion as the Eagles look for a repeat of last year’s top finish at Kent’s AMF Twin-Star Lanes.
However, the 2012-13 edition is at Crest Lanes where Hubbard is joined by Fitch, Boardman, LaBrae, Girard, Howland and 16 other teams on Saturday, starting at noon.
Their quest is the state tournament at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl on March 1.
The boys are scheduled in Columbus on March 2.
However, only the top five teams (boys and girls) and top five individuals (boys and girls) will advance from Crest, where the boys will be in action on Sunday, also starting at noon, when 28 teams, including Fitch, Boardman, Canfield, Champion, Girard and Niles, are in action.
Hubbard was the only area girls team to place at Twin-Star last February, when the Eagles qualified for their fifth straight trip to state and sixth overall.
Seniors Brittany Ferrara (211), Jenna Wise (185-186), Sarah Wise (185-186), Lauren Miller (165) and Christina Leckfor (145) lead the way, while junior Miranda Romano rounds out the top six.
Junior Mariah Miller has been brought up from the junior varsity squad for the season’s final stretch.
Ferrara is a four-time district qualifier.
“I’m more excited than ever to make it and to make it with the team for the fourth year is great,” said the senior with a team-high 211 average. “I was surprised that we qualified second [behind Fitch girls] into districts.
“That was one of our lower sets bowled in a match or tournament but it was enough to move on to the next round. The season has been great, but also a struggle at times.
“Still, we managed to fight through it. I’ve said all season that if we want to conquer goals and make it to state, we have to come together and bowl as a team and not as individuals.
“It makes a difference, it really does.”
Coach Carol Kozbial said that Leckfor’s main contribution is in Baker games.
“She scores better when bowling just one or two frames,” Kozbial said. “It benefits the team and gives other struggling bowlers some relief. Christina does a good job for us.”
Hubbard shouldn’t find Crest hostile.
“We bowled Howland there this season and did well. We’re very optimistic what we’ll be doing there. Although we struggled in sectionals at Bell-Wick, Crest isn’t much different than Bell-Wick. We feel comfortable at Crest.”
Hubbard’s coach assessed the district competition.
“With Lake and Stark counties in this, it’ll be a tough district. We’re hoping to finish in the top three. We want to come home with a trophy and medal. That’s our goal and we’ll be very satisfied.”
Dating to pre-OHSAA sanctioning days, neither Fitch’s boys team nor its girls team has missed qualifying for a district.
Crest is not foreign to Fitch.
“We had a match against Howland this year and we’ve bowled Harding there, too,” said Dino Balkan, the Falcons’ boys coach for a second straight year.
Leading the way are seniors Dwayne Learn Jr., Corey Cox, Tim Ponzi, Chris Mauro and John Greenlund and juniors Kyle Condrick, Kyle Sharisky and Matt Cox.
“Our whole team is back,” Balkan said of having a carbon copy of the 2011-12 squad. “That’s our nucleus. They’ve been together for two years.”
Instruction and communication are a two-way street in the trenches.
“The kids follow our [the coaches’] lead and sometimes they tell us what to do because of their training and how hard they work on shots,” Balkan said of the exchange of information.
SDLqWe work on spares and we work on standing in different positions for different types of oil patterns,” Balkan said.
Attempting to earn credit toward scholarship money during off-season tournaments has made several of his bowlers better.
“They bowl on all fancy patterns and learn from that,” Balkan said, singling out Condrick’s travels in parts of Ohio and neighboring states.
“I haven’t bowled them [all different patterns] as much as he has, so that gives him the edge on a lot of people,” Balkan said. “He’s very knowledgeable, so he’ll help teammates while I could concentrate on some of the other guys.
“I trust him [Condrick] to make the right move on the lanes and the right ball change and he’ll consistently score. He has a bright future.”
But the coach didn’t limit his praise.
“A lot of our kids are smart, they like the game, train hard and want to get better and it showed at sectionals,” Balkan said, noting that, several bowlers, following the team’s regular practice at Wedgewood, will return later that night.
“They’re always trying to find that edge,” said Balkan, who explained that Wedgewood proprietors Ed and Kathy Carrozzino help those who want the extra practice.
The averages are Learn 210, Corey Cox 217, Mauro 194, Greenlund 190, Ponzi 200, Condrick 226, Sharisky 211 and Matt Cox 181.
At the Bell-Wick sectional, Learn had the top three-game set of 789.