SPRINGFIELD TWP. One truism about the Springfield girls bowling team in recent seasons is that the Spartans aren't afraid to aim big.
Senior class after senior class has passed through and added chapters to a growing program legacy that has expanded to include immense success at the league level, high finishes in the sectional and district tournaments and appearances at the state tournament in Columbus.
There may be a new head coach at the helm this season, but this incarnation of the Spartans is looking to adhere to the same lofty standards as the program has reached in recent seasons.
"I am extremely pleased with the status that the team is currently in. Each of the girls has shown improvement from week to week, both physically and mentally," first-year head coach Frank Testa said. "There is still a great deal of bowling left and I feel that if the team can improve at the rate we currently are we will not only be a favorite to win the PTC, but have an excellent opportunity to make it through sectionals, districts and win the state finals."
Those are big aspirations, but the Portage Trail Conference has proven to be one of the area's best in recent years and for that reason, teams that make it through the meat grinder that is the league schedule and succeed in it are usually very well prepared for the postseason and the level of competition it brings.
Testa himself brings some solid experience in the bowling world even though this is his first time helming a varsity program. He has done individual coaching for the past decade and has himself been a bowler for some 32 years. His coaches have included the likes of USA Bowling Gold Level coaches such as Fred Borden, Jeri Edwards and Ron Hatfield, along with Pro Bowlers Association title winners such as Mike Machuga and Mike Shady.
His squad has been led by an extremely balanced scoring attack this season as Kamryn Smith (185 average, 229 high game, 229 and 422 high series), Lauryn Eldreth (173 average, 201 high game, 387 high series), Hanna Warnick (170 average, 199 high game, 362 high series) and Mackenzie Weakland (163 average, 211 high game, 357 high series) have all stepped up at different times to take turns carrying the team on its way to a 5-0 record.
Testa cited a first-week win over Crestwood as the biggest victory to date, but believes there are more to come. He's enjoying working with his team and getting to know his new bowlers.
"It has been a goal of mine to pass the knowledge that I have gained to the youth bowlers and I am truly grateful for the opportunity that Springfield has given me," Testa said.
To get from where they are now, the Spartans are trying to lock down their fundamentals and take small steps forward every week, believing that if they can improve their mental strength across practices, matches and tournaments, they'll be ready for the postseason when it arrives.
"The coaching staff has stressed the importance of the athletes staying positive both in practice and competition in order to allow the athletes to stay relaxed in high-stress situations, which in turn gives them the opportunity to make the best shots possible," Testa said.
Creating a positive environment within the team is a priority and Testa is confident that "every single athlete has been extremely receptive to learning new aspects of the physical and mental game," creating the positive vibes that pave the way for winning habits. The one area where the first-year head coach sees the most room for growth is consistency from game to game and being able to make physical adjustments when the lanes require it.
Underneath all of it, there is the same foundational goal that has become a staple for Springfield of late.
"Our main goal is to win states, but in order for us to achieve that there are three other goals that must be met first," Testa said, alluding to the league tournament and first two rounds of the postseason.
Five wins in five matches suggest all of the above are within reach this season.