SPRINGFIELD TWP. With winter and the schedule throwing some nasty splits their way in recent weeks, the Springfield Spartans are working to pick up the spares and keep their season rolling toward another deep postseason run.
Girls bowling has picked up steam at Springfield in recent years and after tallying another state tournament appearance last season, the Spartans have their sights set on making it back to Columbus.
"We started 9-3 and those were all league matches, so we’re second place right now," head coach Matt Graves said. "We started off season really well and we’ve had a little difficulty the past couple of weeks."
That difficulty has come in two primary forms. One has been a tough schedule that has seen an uptick in the level of competition, which could be negative in the short term, but positive in the long run if Springfield can grow from those challenges and take valuable lessons from its losses.
The second element of difficulty has come courtesy of the winter weather, which has forced the cancellation of school several times and altered the Spartans’ practice and match schedules. Add it all up and you have a recipe for disruptions to a season that started off on a winning note.
"We’ve faced some tough opponents … I think our league is really tough and with the cancellations for snow days our momentum has gotten thrown off," Graves said. "On snow days, our girls will take their own initiative to get to the lanes and bowl."
The leading scorer has been senior Carlea Masters, whose 192 scoring average underscores the consistency she brings to the lineup.
Fellow seniors Madison Swann and Brittany Goldinger, along with junior Mackenzie Bever, are close behind and all average between 166 and 167 per game, so depth at the top of the lineup remains a strong asset.
"We have 13 bowlers on the team and having 10 of them who could absolutely start on varsity makes it more difficult for us to choose," Graves said of the decision he and assistant coach Kerry Bever face for matches.
The experience Masters, Bever, Swann and Goldinger bring to the lanes has proven valuable this year and with state tournament experience in their back pocket, that quartet and the rest of the team remain confident in themselves despite the rough stretch of the past couple weeks.
The postseason promises to be challenging as ever, even more so because unlike the school’s varsity boys bowling team, the girls did not move down to Division II prior to this season. The Ohio High School Athletic Association bases a team’s placement for girls sports on the number of girls in the school and the placement for boys teams solely on the number of boys, so the girls and boys teams from the same school and in the same sport can be in different divisions.
Last year, the Spartans bowled at Stonehedge in Cuyahoga Falls and they know getting through the district tournament again this season will take their best effort.
When those big moments come, Graves expects his team - and especially its veterans - to lean on the lessons they’ve learned during previous big matches.
"They’ve started at younger ages bowling and having been to the state tournament, they now what it takes and they know not to panic, but to just do what it takes to bounce back from a tough frame," Graves said. "Every day just work on little things, just trying to improve our spare percentages and to not have any open frames, because spares in the tournament are huge."
There are several matches left, along with the Portage Trail Conference tournament, before the postseason begins, so there is still time to kick start the team’s momentum before the biggest frames of the season. The weather may not warm up any time soon, but the Spartans know they can.
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