By Josh Brown
TROY — Even after winning a state championship last year, the Troy girls bowling team is not satisfied.
“It’s not really hard,” Troy senior Kirsten McMullen said when asked how the team has stayed motivated this season. “I want another one.”
“She’s greedy,” Troy girls coach Rob Dever said.
“I AM greedy,” McMullen finished with a laugh.
All of the Trojans are.
But it’s exactly that attitude of never having enough success and always wanting to prove that they’re better than the competition that has put the Trojans where they are — headed back to the Division I state tournament for the third straight season and looking to defend their state title. Troy’s championship defense will take place at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl Friday morning.
“We won one already, so we know we can do it,” said junior A’leigha Smith, who bowled the girls program’s first ever 300 game earlier this season.
“We know what to expect, and we know what we’re capable of,” McMullen said.
But the team also knows how to handle expectations. With the vast majority of last year’s championship team back — the Trojans only graduated one senior — the team’s experience and competitive drive has propelled it right back to the state tournament for the third season in a row.
“All seven of these girls were there last year. That experience, you can’t replace that,” Dever said. “It’s invaluable, walking in and knowing what to expect. But we’re going to approach it the same way we always do. The first thing is we’re going to try to make the cut. Then when we do, we’ll try to win our first match, then hopefully our second and on to the last one. One step at a time. There are a lot of good teams there.”
Dever, though, also knows how unpredictable the state bowling tournament can be.
In 2011, the Troy boys won a state title, finishing third in individual qualifying en route to winning the next three head-to-head matches. The next year, the boys went after the repeat, finishing second in individual qualifying — only to fall to Austintown-Fitch in the first round of head-to-head play and place sixth.
Three may just be the magic number for the Trojans. Two years ago, the girls finished 11th and didn’t make the cut. Last season, they were third after individual qualifying — just like the boys — on the way to their championship.
“Last year, we caught fire at the right time,” Dever said. “We bowled extremely well in match play. When you’re bowling best three out of five short series, it’s almost a 50-50 thing when you’re bowling against a good team. It could be one lucky break here or there that makes the difference.”
Jenna Stone made that break happen for the Trojans last season, striking out in the 10th frame to close out a 3-1 victory over Beavercreek in the championship match — which helps the team going into tight situations.
“It helps me a lot,” Stone said. “I don’t get as nervous around pressure anymore.”
“When this team gets on a roll and get their confidence going, they can do really well and compete with anybody,” Dever said. ‘They know how hard it is to win. It doesn’t come easy.
“If they do the best that they can do, I’ll be proud of them, no matter where we end up. Just making it to state is a accomplishment, and you never want to take it for granted.”
But when asked if they’d be satisfied with anything but another title, the Trojans all didn’t hesitate and answered as one.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.