Prep bowling: After reality check, Badin girls rolling right along

Badin High School’s girls bowling team is leading the Greater Catholic League Coed Division this season. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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Badin High School’s girls bowling team is leading the Greater Catholic League Coed Division this season. SUBMITTED PHOTO

After ending the 2015-16 regular season on a seven-game win streak in dual matches, the Badin High School girls bowling team expected a similar start to this season.

A loss to Fenwick to open the season might have been the best reality check.

Badin hasn’t dropped a Greater Catholic League Coed dual match since then and enters the regular-season finale Tuesday against Purcell Marian at 13-2 overall and 12-1 in the league. The Rams are assured at least a share of their first regular-season GCLC title.

“Some of us came into the first match expecting to pick up right where we left off last year, so I think we were a little surprised when we lost, but it was a good learning experience,” said sophomore Carly Fields, a first-team All-GCLC pick last year who leads the Rams with a 161.9 average. “After that, we just kind of bonded as a team better and really came together throughout the season. We’re really excited.”

The Rams brought back five bowlers from last year’s varsity, including four starters, but have a new coach in Rikki Bell.

Fields took over the anchor position previously held by graduate Megan Jungkunz and is joined in the lineup by senior Kelly Hanavan (154.0), juniors Claire Stiens (147.9) and Stephanie O’Neil (139.9), and sophomore Julia Hoevel (128.4).

Bell admitted she isn’t even really a bowler and didn’t have experience coaching, but she had been asked to take over the team and decided to give it a try. The Rams already having some experience made the job easier, but Bell said it also helps to have a group of girls that “acts as a team, not just individuals, and steps up when others aren’t doing as well.”

“After the first game we were not playing like a team, so we had a little talk and came together,” Bell said. “Thinking of it as a team and not an individual sport has really helped them.”

Fields said the Rams had expected to “mesh better as a team” after having all of last season together.

The loss to Fenwick kept Badin in second place in the GCLC standings through the first half of the season, but a come-from-behind win over Alter on Jan. 12 placed the teams in a tie for first, and Badin continued to gain momentum.

The Rams moved into sole possession of first by handing Alter a 2,196-1,990 loss Jan. 31.

“We’ve definitely built up our confidence,” Fields said. “When we came back and beat Alter (by 12 pins), and then bowled even better at their place, that really boosted our confidence. Now we think we can even go to state.”

Badin finished third in the league tournament Jan. 22, but Bell said her team seemed tired that day and the girls were clearly disappointed to lose to two teams they had beaten already in dual matches.

The Rams shook off the bad day and have been bowling with more accuracy down the stretch, which Bell said is a credit to their hard work in practice working on picking up spares.

Their GCLC title is a first since the league split from the Girls Greater Catholic League in 2013-14. Badin won the GGCL crown in 2012-13 when Hannah Morris claimed her fourth league bowler of the year award and won a district title.

Bell said she expects the Rams to continue their success into the postseason when sectionals begin Feb. 17, followed by the district tournament. Badin hasn’t sent anyone to state since Morris graduated in 2013.

“I would be shocked if we didn’t do well in sectionals,” Bell said. “They are going to do fantastic. I’m so excited.”

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