By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The last time both the Troy bowling teams qualified for state, magic happened.
The Trojans are hoping for a repeat performance.
Troy’s girls and boys bowling teams both qualified for this weekend’s Division I state tournament at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl. with both teams finishing fifth at last week’s district tournament to grab the final state qualifying spots. For the girls, it will be the fifth straight trip to state as a team, while the boys will be making their first state appearance since the 2012-13 season.
The last time both teams competed at state in the same year was the 2010-11 season, when the boys won the team state championship.
“It’d be nice if that could repeat itself,” Troy girls bowling coach Rob Dever said.
That win set off a run of three straight state appearances by the boys team, while the girls won a team state championship in the 2015-16 season in the second year of its five-year run. The only season in the past 13 years that neither Troy team qualified for state was in 2013-14.
“That boys team (in 2010-11) was undefeated in the regular season and was really strong, so that win wasn’t really unexpected,” Dever said. “But we’ve learned over the years that after the cut, once you get into the head-to-head competition, it becomes a crapshoot basically. Anybody can beat anybody, and it’s just who gets the right break at the right time or the wrong break at the wrong time. Until it’s mathematically impossible to lose, you can never count on anything.
“This year, we knew the girls were capable (of getting to state), and we thought the boys were capable, and it just all came together.”
This year, though, getting to state proved to not be a given for Troy’s girls. During the district tournament, the Trojans had one of their three seniors knocked out of commission with an illness after the first game of regular bowling, leaving a trio of freshman — Kayleigh McMullen, Kylie Schiml and Morgan Shilt — to assist seniors Cassidy McMullen, Stephanie Crider and Alyssa Shilt.
“These seniors that have been here all four years, they’ve run the table, getting to state each year — and this year was one of the most satisfying district tournaments yet, so far as advancing,” Dever said. “We were already short one girl before we even started, so we were down to six — three freshmen and three seniors.
“After the first game, one of the seniors, Alyssa (Shilt), fell ill and ended up going home, so we finished that district with only five bowlers — two seniors and three freshmen — and we were still able to make it through. That’s pretty special, if you ask me. I haven’t seen that happen, where one of our starters and key bowlers gets sick in the middle of the tournament and has to leave. The girls faced adversity and we circled the wagons.”
Troy’s girls were able to hang on in the end, though, rolling a 186 in the penultimate baker game to take a 29-pin lead over sixth-place Xenia to help hold off the Buccaneers by 19 pins in the end.
“The girls could have easily used that as an excuse for not making it, but each one of them stepped up,” Dever said. “It was very cool.”
And while the girls team has been able to rely on consistent scoring all season — Cassidy and Kayleigh McMullen, Crider and Shilt are all in the top five in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division — the boys have all pitched in here and there, with their real strength being in baker games.
Jordan Fisher finished the regular season leading the team in average in sixth in the GWOC American North, with Carson Rogers the only other Trojan in the top 10, sitting in ninth. But seniors Preston Gambrell and Preston Jackson have remained consistent, and Brayden Ganger and Drew Snurr have both contributed, as well.
The boys’ day at district was just as exciting as the girls’ day, too.
“(Troy boys coach) Doug (Stone) does a great job with the boys. It feels fantastic to get both teams there this year,” Dever said. “At times this year, the boys had some large downs, but they compensated with some big ups. Going into district, we knew the boys had to have an above-average day — and they did. They didn’t let the pressure or the stage get too big for them.”
The Trojans averaged 211.7 through the six final baker games, but Mason — which had been in sixth place — tied the Trojans for fifth roughly midway through the final baker game of the day. Troy was able to close with a 222, though, pulling away in the end to top sixth-place LaSalle by 52 pins as Mason dropped to seventh, 56 pins behind.
“We had been hanging right around fifth place, and the sixth place team, in the fourth frame of the last baker game, caught us. We were dead tied going into the last six frames for that final spot to go to state,” Dever said. “And the boys were able to get hot right then and pull away to maintain fifth place. Three heart attacks and several hundred gray hairs later, we made it.”
And even though there’s sure to be more heart attacks and gray hairs at the state competition, that is something the Trojans have become accustomed to over the years. The girls and boys all know what to expect — and they know what they have to do.
“At this point, you live to bowl another day. That’s what it’s all about. And our next goal now is to make the cut, then we go from there,” Dever said. “It’s the same thing we drill into the kids every year we get the opportunity to go — first goal: make the cut. Second goal: win the first match. Next: win the next match, and just do it one at a time. We either go until we get knocked out or until we climb the final rung to the top.”
The girls will compete on Friday and the boys on Saturday, with competition both days beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.