By Greg Gulas
When Chelsea Gilliam was named YSU women’s bowling team coach, she was needed in order to build a competitive program.
A Top 25 ranking during the Penguins’ maiden Division I campaign exceeded even her expectations.
Addressing the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center, Gilliam said the school’s charter team, albeit a youthful group, is now primed to make their move next season.
“Our immediate goal was to be competitive and hopefully crack the Top 25, but to actually be there is really amazing,” Gilliam said. “In the fall, we had to get the nerves out of the way while in the spring we picked up right where we left off.
“We had a nice spring, just didn’t finish as strong as I had hoped.”
Gilliam’s squad consisted of six freshmen and two sophomores with two local bowlers, Alexis Grim of Boardman and Girard’s Mackenzie Olesky, on the roster.
Grim’s 258 game against Nebraska was the top individual roll on the team while her 186.97 average was second only to Rachel Darrow’s 190.59.
Darrow’s 257 roll against St. Francis University was second to Grim, also authoring 240 and 235 games for three of the season’s top four spots.
Nikki Mendez was third with a 186.92 average while her 235 roll against Lincoln Memorial during the fall rounds out the top efforts.
The Penguins are ranked 25th overall with the final poll set to be released by the NTCA — National Tenpin Coaches Association — later this month.
They’ve been ranked as high as 23rd, that coming during the March poll.
“We’re heading into our second season right where we want to be and right where we had hoped,” Gilliam said. “We’ve already added Emma Dockery of Ravenna to next year’s team and are hoping to add perhaps two more recruits by August.
“After playing tournaments in Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois, expect next year’s schedule to be similar.”
YSU — currently independent — has applied for inclusion with the Northeast Conference.
Gilliam is a cancer survivor. She was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2013 and had a double mastectomy. Gilliam noticed that some lumps reappeared last May, which came back positive after tissue was tested.
“I also brought up the fact that I had this other pain and after a bone scan, it was discovered that my left femur was fractured,” she said. “I was told that I’d eventually break my hip if I didn’t have this taken care of so they operated last June and I began radiation at the end of August.
“I have my days, but try to keep myself busy and my mind occupied so that I don’t have to think about it.”
YSU has scheduled a fund-raiser to help with her medical expenses. Elaine Jacobs, YSU’s associate athletic director-senior woman administrator, and longtime athletics supporter Frank Frattaroli, are promoting the team’s banquet this Sunday. Proceeds Proceeds will help Gilliam’s medical expenses as she continues to receive treatment.
“Elaine wanted to do something on my behalf, but I’m glad that the focus remains on the team. I’m just a small part of it,” Gilliam said. “I don’t want people to look at me differently and feel sorry for me.”
The event, which costs $25 per person and begins at 2 p.m., will be held at St. Mark Antiochan Orthodox Church Hall in Youngstown. Further information may be obtained by calling Jacobs at 330-941-2282.
Next week, Bob DiBiasio, Cleveland Indians vice-president, will serve as guest speaker.