EVERETT — A year ago the Cascade girls bowling team finished the regular season 12-0 and never lost a game in all 12 of those victories. But for all that regular season success, the Bruins faltered at the district tournament, missing out on qualifying for state by just six pins.
The Bruins won most of their games this season and again finished 12-0, but more importantly they reversed their fortune at districts. Cascade qualified for 4A state tournament this past Saturday finishing in third place at the West Central District Tournament at Pacific Lanes in Tacoma.
The state tournament is this Friday and Saturday at Narrows Plaza in Tacoma.
Led by head coach Ron Hicks, the Bruins won the state championship in 2005. Hicks said he believes this year’s team has the talent to win it all again.
“We have as good of a chance as anyone out there, I think,” Hicks said. “We have a good core of girls. The top five girls I have are very competitive and they really want to do well. They have improved a lot as the season went on also. It’s always a work in progress and we are going to give it our best shot.”
The five varsity competitors are juniors Kayla Zabel and Katie Elliott and seniors McKenna Gorena, Cailee Harrison and Chrissy Patterson. Of the three teams that the Bruins compete against throughout the regular season (Everett, Jackson and Anacortes), Zabel carried the highest average of any bowler at 194, narrowly edging Everett freshman Candice Goldfinch, who averages 191. Elliot has the third highest average at 165.
Bowling has been a family affair for Zabel since she was a small child and she has steadily improved each year. This season she improved her average by nearly 10 pins.
“This year I’ve just been focusing harder and cracking down and trying to pick up all the splits and spares,” Zabel said.
Picking up splits and spares is a lot of what the bowling team works on in practice. Rather than just bowl games during the practice time, the girls take time shooting at certain pins to improve on picking up different spare and split combinations.
“We practice on our 10s and our sevens, like the corner pins,” Gorena said. “Those are really hard. Even now, Kayla still struggles with them. Even the best bowlers, they still struggle with picking those up.”
Gorena, who is the Bruins’ team captain, has shown steady improvement since joining the bowling team her freshman year. She got involved with the sport because some of her friends had shown interest and said the appeal is being able to compete and play at any age. She also admits that she wasn’t very good at first, but good thing for her she has a coach who has been working with high-school bowlers since 1980.
“I was on (junior varsity) my freshman year and I was bowling like in the ’90s,” Gorena said. “I wasn’t really bowling that well. I got my own ball and I learned how to use it and I learned how to move and find where the ball works on the lane. He was just really helpful because he knows how many boards to move and he is so experienced in the sport that it is really easy to trust him.”
Watching a practice it doesn’t take long to see that the girls really get along with each other and are very social. Gorena said the friendships that she has developed with her teammates is the best part of being a bowler. The friendships sometimes even extend outside of the team. Everett and Cascade sometimes practice at the same bowling center and it isn’t rare to see the players from each team interact.
The rapport that the girls have with each other will be important at the state tournament. Each girl bowls six individual games on the first day, but just as important are the 14 baker games that the team will roll on the second day. In the baker format each bowler on the team bowls two frames putting more of an emphasis on the “team” aspect of the game.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Narrows Plaza Bowl, University Place
Local bowlers advance: Team: Cascade; Individuals: Candice Goldfinch, Everett, Brittany Ralston, Everett