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Springfield staying positive despite slow start

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent

SPRINGFIELD TWP. There was no doubt, even before COVID-19 turned sports – and daily life – upside down that this season would be a different and difficult one for the Springfield Spartans.

Having emerged as one of the stronger girls bowling programs in the area over the past few years, Springfield said farewell to five key seniors who were anchors for the squad last season. That quintet had put the Spartans in the mix at the state tournament and been the core of a lot of big wins, so when they graduated, it was bound to leave a void.

For veteran head coach Frank Testa and the rest of the coaching staff, the buzz word through the early weeks of the season has been development.

"We're still looking for our first win this season, so it's quite different than last season," Testa said. "A lot of our girls are new bowlers ... many of them new to the sport and while want to win every single match, our goals are a little different this year in terms of development."

Much of the team spends its practice time working on building the fundamentals that will help them succeed in the long term, while the squad's few veterans are able to train more similarly to what the Spartans did one season ago when the majority of the roster was comprised of veterans who focused on fine-tuning their skills and less on fundamentals.

Although an 0-7 record isn't what any of the coaches or bowlers would like to see, the message from the coaching staff has been on each bowler doing her best from shot to shot and frame to frame without worrying about what the scoreboard says.

"It's been a lot of beginner's training involved with the majority of the girls, which has been a little bit of a challenge for our coaching staff, but from the beginning to now, the girls have shown a lot of improvement," Testa said. "I've brought this up on multiple occasions with the girls, to just focus on making good shots during matches and not worry about winning or losing for the team."

Senior Kamryn Smith is one of just two seniors on the roster and has led the way in scoring for the Spartans. Her average of 193 pins per game echoes the trend of improvement across the roster, as her scoring has gone up throughout the season. The focus on fundamentals has helped Smith, Testa noted, as well as the team's other senior, Breanna McKay.

One of the keys to Smith's progress has been better spare shooting, allowing her to pick up key pins when her first shot doesn't result in a strike.

The four juniors on the roster have been led by Karlee Holmes, who is averaging nearly 150 pins per game and has emerged as the squad's second-leading scorer. With a young, inexperienced team, every chance to practice or compete is valuable. Of course, the schedule has been impacted by COVID-19, with multiple matches postponed or canceled.

Two Metro Athletic Conference, Streetsboro and Cloverleaf, have paused their seasons out of pandemic-related concerns. Springfield's first of two matches with both schools have been pushed back and the two sides hope to be able to play them later in the year.

Although the first month of the season has been challenging and delivered one hurdle after another to clear, Testa has seen a positive mindset prevail within the program and has reminded his bowlers of the progress they've made.

"A lot of teams at the beginning of the season had a significant advantage over us in terms of experience, but I've told them to not let  the beginning of season affect our matches for the future because we're going to get better," Testa said. "We've also had a couple of matches where some of our best players were out due to COVID protocols and if they'd been in those matches and hit their normal averages, we would have won."

Those results have the Spartans confident that when they see those same teams again later in the year, they can turn those losses into wins. Such victories would be tangible evidence of progress and development, which are the two primary targets the Spartans are hunting for this winter.