LAKE TWP.  After a light start to the season, the Lake boys bowling team is eager to tackle the meat of its schedule and work toward getting back to where it used to be.

Four years ago, Lake was the top team in the Federal League, but the past two seasons have been challenging ones for head coach Rick Nelson and his bowlers. Even this season, as the roster has grown to include a large number of upperclassmen, Nelson noted that experience is still something the Blue Streaks are trying to gain.

"We’re improving, but we’re relatively young team from an experience standpoint," Nelson said. "We have a boatload of juniors and a couple of seniors, but experience-wise most of our guys started bowling in ninth grade."

Because of that, one of the early-season challenges for Lake has been establishing much consistency on the lanes. The team’s 4-2 record through its first six matches is encouraging and doubles last season’s win total, but with no league matches bowled so far, it’s tough to tell where Lake stacks up against its league rivals.

Juniors Hunter Meade and Anthony Nichols and senior Alex Nichols have led the way so far, posting the team’s top scoring averages ahead of a tournament at Park Centre Lanes on Dec. 30. The first league match of the season won’t come until the new year, so for now, the Blue Streaks want to continue building their experience and rounding into form before battling the likes of Jackson, Perry and Green.

"One of the kids said he just wanted to win a Federal League match, Even though we won it in 2013 and 2014, since then have trended downward, and going oh-for last year, it’s something the kids really want to do, getting back to winning in the league."

Beyond league play, there’s also a late-season showdown with Springfield, a district with which Lake shares a border even though the two districts are in different leagues. The Spartans reached the state tournament last year and have been a consistently solid team for the past few years, so the match should be a chance for Lake to measure itself against top competition shortly before the postseason.

One bowler who could be a big factor in that equation is Dillon Reynolds, the team’s sixth man, but a competitor who has earned more playing time as the season has worn on.

"Before the season, I thought he would mostly be JV bowler with a little bit of varsity time, but he’s one of those guys who really proved himself in tryouts and right before practice started, and now he’s gotten quite a bit of varsity time," Nelson said.

Reynolds is one of a handful of bowlers who are working to gain the necessary experience to perform well on the biggest stages and for Lake, their progress is a linchpin for the program climbing back from where it has been the past two seasons and securing a spot among the Federal League’s best once again.

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB