By Greg Gulas
The Division II girls state bowling tournament gets underway Saturday with the Hubbard Eagles the district’s lone area team to qualify for competition at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
Individual qualifiers include McDonald Blue Devils standout Jenna Simmons and two-time state qualifier Haylie Rotz of Lowellville, each of whom is a junior.
Hubbard will be making its fourth consecutive trip to state as a team under head coach Ken Miller, who is currently in his fifth season.
The Eagles finished second, 118 pins in back of Fairport Harbor (3,661-3,543) but 81 ahead of third-place Akron Garfield (3,642), and 157 pins ahead of fourth-place Akron Springfield (3,386), the final qualifier from last weekend’s district action at Wedgewood Lanes.
“This is a team that absolutely loves the game, but more importantly they like and get along with one another,” Miller said. “They are willing to work hard, especially in practice because that is where they have most of their fun.”
Senior Sabrina Romano’s 602 (209-203-190) was the Eagles top finisher, copping second-place laurels at district but finished pine pins in back of district champion Tyler Lippert (232-173-206) of Garfield, who rolled a 611.
“This is my fourth straight trip to state and all have been memorable, but this is my last chance so I want to do my best and show what I’ve learned over the past four years,” Romano said. “We’re a pretty strong team and can go far, as long as we pick up our spares. Staying loose and having fun will be the key, but first we have to be one of the final eight teams. Once we qualify, even underdogs can win it all.”
Add Simmons’ third-place finish (she rolled 190-181-221 for 592) and Rotz’s (122-253-191, 566) fifth-place ending and area bowlers claimed three of the top five district slots.
According to Miller, every member has a role and that has played a big part in their overall success.
“We don’t have one star, it’s that someone new steps up every match or tournament,” Miller said. “During our last three tournaments, we had three different high scorers.”
The Eagles went 17-1 this season and were a perfect 8-0 in the All-American Conference, capturing the White Tier title for the fourth straight year.
Their only loss came at the hands of Austintown Fitch with three pins separating them from an otherwise perfect campaign.
Other Eagles’ finishers included 11th place from Alexis Cobbin (145-189-207, 541), 24th by Amber Davis (155-165-177, 497), 44th from Ashligh George (163-135-156, 454), the only lefty on the team and a 49th place finish by Jenny Reebel (120-144-183, 447).
Rounding out their team is senior Kennedy Julious, and freshmen Maggie Lewis and Bethany Jones.
“It’s really pretty special to go to state all four years. It has flown by rather quickly,” Cobbin said. “I like my team because everyone has each other’s back. In the society that we live today, it’s hard to accept people for who they are but this team has done exactly that and done it the past four years.”
Miller called Romano his high-average bowler, said Cobbin is very consistent, noted George gives you everything she has while Julious is his Baker games specialist.
He added Reebel is still learning the game, notes Davis is a huge surprise as a freshman while Lewis and Jones are new to the game, gaining valuable experience their initial varsity campaign.
Rotz finished 34th (out of 200 bowlers) last year while Simmons just missed qualifying last year by 29 pins.
“Falling short last year has been my motivation. While I didn’t think of it all the time, it was always stuck in the back of my head,” Simmons said. “I was so close so it gave me the fire I needed to push through this year. The key at state will be keeping my composure, just rolling the ball and not forcing it.”
Rotz was MVP of the recent TMC Valley Conference Tournament, recalling that her father and Rockets’ coach, John Rotz, helped her tweak her game after last season in order to get her straightened out and ready for this season.
“I had issues with throwing the ball. It was my shoulder and I was leaning,” she said. “We went to Boardman Lanes, he said, ‘We are going to fix this right now,’ and I’ve been good ever since. I’m 30 pins above my average now and more mature as a bowler. I’m ready to go.”