By Josh Brown
TROY — In the two seasons since winning the Division I state championship, the Troy girls bowling team has found out just how difficult it is to repeat that feat.
But the Trojans’ dynasty is definitely undeniable.
During the 2017-18 season, the Troy girls bowling team qualified for the D-I state tournament for an astounding 10th time in the past 13 years — a run that includes an individual state champion in 2009 and state runner-up team finishes in 2009 and 2017 in addition to the team championship in 2016. Once there, though, the Trojans took the No. 2 seed after individual qualifying, only to be knocked out in the first round of head-to-head bracket play by No. 7 Wapakoneta, placing fifth in the state overall on the final day of the season at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
That continued play on the highest level in the state makes the Troy girls bowling team 2017-18’s Troy Daily News Girls Team of the Year.
“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 before the state tournament. “We always get everybody’s best shot. It’s very difficult.”
Jenna Stone — a dominant force during her entire career with the team — finished off her time as a Trojan in stellar fashion, finishing tied for second in the state individually, taking third overall after a tiebreaker by rolling 213-246-222—681. Twinsburg’s Tyahana Elder won the individual title with 268-213-248—729.
Junior Cassidy McMullen also finished in the top 10 in the state, finishing 10th overall with 192-232-192—616.
Troy held first place after the first three individual games, but the Trojans fell to second after the three baker games and drew a dangerous Wapakoneta team in the first round of bracket play. And in that match, the Trojans fell behind 2-1, winning the first game 167-153 but dropping the next two 179-156 and 199-148. Troy won the fourth game 191-140 to stay alive, but Wapakoneta won the decisive fifth game 182-157 to eliminate the Trojans, who eventually placed fifth on the day.
Before the season even began, the Trojans knew it would be another special one.
“The girls will have plenty of talent and experience this returning,” Dever said. “Five of the girls from the 2016 state championship team and the 2017 state runner-up team will be back.”
Stone and fellow seniors A’leigha Smith — who bowled a 300 game as a junior, the girls program’s first in competition — and Sierra Brown, as well as juniors McMullen, Alyssa Shilt and Stephanie Crider gave the team plenty of firepower throughout the lineup, and it showed all season long. All five of the Trojans’ regular starters finished the season in the top 25 in the overall Greater Western Ohio Conference in average, with Stone the overall leader, McMullen fifth, Smith and Crider 13th and 14th respectively and Shilt 25th. And Brown filled in whenever necessary, also, 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 during the season. “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.”
Troy finished the regular season 15-1 overall in dual play, with an early-season loss to Versailles the only blemish. The Trojans went 15-0 in GWOC American North play to win the division title outright for the first time since 2015 but for the fifth time in a row — Troy shared the title with Butler in 2016 and 2017.
Stone finished the year as the GWOC American North Division Player of the Year for the fourth time in her career, one of only a handful of Troy athletes to complete the career sweep, while Dever won the Coach of the Year award for the fifth straight season.
Even with all of the success, though, Dever wasn’t a fan of the word “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. 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.”
But he also knows that success breeds even more success, and even though they graduated Stone, Smith and Brown, the Trojans are trying to make sure that the program continues to get ever stronger.
“With success comes confidence,” Dever said. “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. 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.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.