By Josh Brown
TROY — By the time the postseason rolls around, Troy bowling is always prepared.
Because the gauntlet the Trojans go through during the regular season is practically a year-long state tournament.
Still, the Troy girls bowling team was able to qualify for state last season as the Greater Western Ohio Conference swept all of the state berths coming out of the district tournament. And after the departure of only two seniors, with four regulars returning from that team, expectations are high once again.
“That’s definitely our goal again, to get to state,” Troy coach Rob Dever said. “To get back to state and to perform better than last year once we’re there.”
Troy’s girls finished last season 16-3 and won the GWOC North Division before advancing to the state tournament. The team — which had talent up and down the lineup — excelled in baker games all season long, but the Trojans could not advance past the first head-to-head round at state and to the level where baker games were the only thing that mattered.
The Trojan girls lost two seniors — Allie Isner and Rachel Wagner — to graduation, but they return a quartet of bowlers that were in the regular rotation.
Senior Rachel Darrow and sophomores Jenna Stone and A’leigha Smith bring back three of the top five averages from the GWOC North last season — with Isner owning a fourth one. Stone had the top average in the division with a 196.7, Darrow second with 194.8 and Smith fifth with 180.0.
Also returning is junior Kirsten McMullen, who had the ninth-best average in the division with a 171.0.
“All four of those girls were on the roster that went to state last year,” Dever said. “We’ve also got a couple of girls coming up from JV and a couple of incoming freshmen that I think will contribute this year.”
Junior Jennica Funderburg, sophomore Sierra Brown and freshmen Cassidy McMullen and Alyssa Shilt will all compete for time in the rotation.
“They’re all about equal ability, which is good to see, so we’re going to give them equal opportunity to see who claims that fifth spot in the lineup,” Dever said. “Right now, we kind of have a rotation in that fifth spot.”
The boys team, however, doesn’t have that level of experience — as there are no seniors on the roster. Still, though, the returners that are present all saw significant time last season for a Trojan team that made it to the district level.
Three juniors — Hayden Jackson, Jason Shiltz and A.J. Kendall — and sophomore Aaron Stone are all back from last year’s team, and they’ll be joined by junior Landon Flory.
“We have no seniors, so we’re going to have this group together for a couple of years,” Dever said. “Landon bowled JV last year, A.J. bowled about half of our varsity games, so he got some experience. I think Aaron will be our top returner along with Hayden, who improved his game a lot and is going to be a good leader.”
The Trojan boys went 10-9 last season and finished runner-up in the GWOC North behind champion Sidney. Stone had Troy’s best average as a freshman, posting a 204.4 that was good for fourth in the division. Jackson brings back a 185.4 average, Shiltz a 180.5 and Kendall a 176.2.
“The boys made it to district last year. If they can get back to district, that’s a good goal for them,” Dever said. “Because once you’re there, anything can happen. We’re going to be a little younger than we’re used to, so it’s kind of a two-year project. But if we can get some incoming freshmen and JV players to step up, we can be dangerous.”
And while the goals involve the postseason, getting there through a regular season GWOC schedule — the toughest bowling conference in the state — will assuredly prepare the team for anything it might face at the end.
“I think it’s fantastic to have that level of competition in the GWOC,” Dever said. “When we get to the district or the state tournament, we don’t see any tougher teams than we’ve faced all year. It’s great preparation.”
And with the lofty expectations, the Trojans need to be prepared.
Editor’s note: The Troy bowling teams opened the season Friday at Tecumseh. Look for results from that match in Sunday’s Troy Daily News.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.