By Josh Brown
TROY — It’s hard to be the queen.
That’s something the Troy girls bowling team has learned over the years as it has qualified for the Division I state tournament a whopping 10 times in the past 13 years, including this one. And with an individual state championship in 2009, a team championship two seasons ago and a runner-up finish last year, the Trojans are aiming to bring home another trophy when it competes at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl Saturday — and keep the dynasty going beyond that.
“We’re happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish — but as soon as you get up there, everyone wants to knock you off,” Troy girls bowling coach Rob Dever said. “We always get everybody’s best shot. It’s very difficult. We just have to plan ahead and develop the next group to get them ready to go by the time they’re freshmen to keep the momentum going.
“With success comes confidence. The girls are pretty confident in their abilities, and the more times we can go, the more times they see what it takes to get there, and then they put the work in that they need to to keep doing it.”
This particular group is a special one, though.
The girls’ best finish as a team before two seasons ago was a runner-up finish in 2009, but then the Trojans knocked off Greater Western Ohio Conference rival Beavercreek in 2016’s state championship match to claim the program’s first state title. And last season, the Trojans earned their way right back to the state championship match, falling to Stow Monroe-Falls to finish second.
The team has been led by one of the top female athletes ever to pass through Troy High School’s doors, too, in senior Jenna Stone. Stone is one of a handful of girls to be a four-time division Player of the Year during her career in any sport, both in the GWOC North during her freshman and sophomores seasons and then in the GWOC American North the past two seasons.
“Jenna’s absolutely the best bowler that’s come through the program. The numbers don’t lie,” Dever said. “She;s going to graduate with the highest career four-year average, and she has a ton of records. About the only thing she hasn’t done is throw a 300 game. She’s done about everything else you can do in high school bowling. She has the highest three-game series at 751. What she’s been able to accomplish is remarkable.”
But that’s not even close to the whole story for the team.
All five of the Trojans’ regular starters finished the season in the top 25 in the overall GWOC in average, with Stone the overall leader, Cassidy McMullen fifth, A’leigha Smith and Stephanie Crider 13th and 14th respectively and Alyssa Shilt 25th. And Troy’s sixth girl, Sierra Brown, can fill in when necessary, as well, with all six of Troy’s bowlers finishing in the top 12 in average in the GWOC American North Division.
“Jenna’s got five quality bowlers on the team with her, because we’ve been around long enough to know that you can’t just live or die with only one or two really good bowlers. We do this as a team,” Dever said. “Because there’s going to be days when Jenna is off, and it takes pressure off of her because she knows that she doesn’t have to go out there and throw really big scores every time for us to win. She knows she’s got that safety net of teammates to help her out.
“That’s one of the things we tell all the girls — we do this as a team. It may be one person with a big score one match, but then next time it’ll be a third or fourth bowler that does really well. If someone’s down a little bit, someone else is right there to pick them up. That’s what being a team is all about.”
Even with all of that, Dever isn’t ready to talk dynasty.
“I don’t know about that. We just try to do the best we can,” he said with a laugh. “I think when you look back, it’s so hard to get there. And even though we’ve been there the past two seasons, there’s no guarantee we’re even going to make the cut when we get over there this year. We talk about this all the time, taking it one step at a time. When we get there, the first goal is to make the cut. The second is to win our first match. The third is to win the next one. One at a time.
“I like that the girls have the experience and know what it takes, but the competition? They don’t care what you’ve done in the past. They’re going to be gunning for their own state titles, so we’ve got to show up and do our job.”
The Troy girls will compete in the state tournament Saturday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. The boys tournament will be held Friday, with Tippecanoe’s Nick Lanham qualifying as an individual.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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