JACKSON TWP. Two vastly different challenges are facing the Jackson boys and girls bowling teams as they work their way through the latter stages of the season.
The girls team is riding a hot streak that has seen it win seven of its first eight matches of the year, and with a veteran team with plenty of experience, there’s good reason to believe that the Polar Bears can keep rolling right into the postseason, where they hope to make a push that sends them all the way to the state tournament.
Meanwhile, the boys team has posted a 3-5 record that has included some bright spots, but a few tough outings as well, leaving the Polar Bears in search of consistency as they near the end of the year.
“As we approach the post season, I look forward to continue to see tournament success. The girls have shown consistency throughout this season,” head coach Michael Cochran said. “The boys have all the potential in the world and I look for them to pull through come the postseason.”
As the season has unfolded and the girls team has gotten win after win behind seniors Alicia Yacono and Kailey Bonniwell, both returning state qualifiers, the squad has also seen other bowlers step up as well. Senior Sydney McIntyre is a competitor whom Cochran cited as making a big leap from her sophomore year to her junior year and has managed to do the same moving from junior to senior status.
Having McIntyre as another contributor in the lineup has helped the girls team be more consistent as as they’ve racked up wins, Cochran has tried to get them to enjoy the experience and recognize what they’re accomplishing.
“The biggest challenge so far has been making sure the girls are living in the moment,” Cochran said. “We are off to the best season we have had in quite a while and I want to make sure that we do no lose focus. We have some tough matches coming up.”
In pursuing that goal, the message is to throw each ball better than the one before it and while that may be a small-scale way of attacking a larger goal, it’s worked so far this season. Along with that aim, competing against themselves and finding ways to improve even though they’re winning regularly are at the forefront just past the midway point of the campaign.
The boys team is seeking to right its ship amidst a tough stretch that includes a pair of tough losses to one of the top teams in the Federal League, Green. The league race remains fairly tight and the coaching staff is making it a point to remind the squad that if they can find a rhythm, they have a chance to make an impact both in the league and the postseason.
“For the boys, it is getting them to realize that even though they only have three wins this season, they are one or two more wins out of turning the season around,” Cochran said. “The records for the boys throughout the Federal League (are) really tight.”
The message of the moment is that any wins the rest of the way won’t simply be handed to the Polar Bears and that they have to be bold, go out and battle to get the victories they know can turn the year around.
While the record has five losses on it, Cochran knows that the confidence that comes from a big win can do wonders for a team that is struggling and in need of a boost.
“The boys know that the season can be turned around in just one match,” Cochran said. “Wins near the end of the season are very important. We continue to focus on building a team atmosphere which focuses around picking each other up when we are struggling.”
Senior Brian Culp has become one of the veteran leaders for the boys team and the coaching staff counts on him to boost morale and encourage his teammates whether he’s in the lineup that day or not. Having a positive voice amidst the challenges of the season to date is one reason Cochran is optimistic about what the boys team can do the rest of the way. With the sectional tournament next month, both Jackson teams have a relatively small number of chances to compete and get postseason-ready before then.
Each has its challenges to face and goals to chase between now and the final frame of the season, whenever that may come.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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