Bowling looks to build on growth from this year

Matthew Mahoney

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Bowling looks to build on growth from this year

With the return of talented juniors Ben Kastner and Alex Souza from last year, the two led the boys bowling team to a tremendous amount of success this year, especially compared to the previous year.

“Alex and Ben grew a lot during their second year on the team,” head coach Grant Vermeer said. “They competed extremely well and led us to beat out some very well-established and experienced teams.”

The story of this season was growth. With only five returning players combined from the girls and boys teams, the new bowlers were going to have to improve throughout the season in order to compete against the best. That’s why the return of Alex and Ben was so important; the two gave the team some reassurance to succeed until the rest of the team caught up. With such a young and inexperienced team, the Rangers were greeted with some troubling adversity towards the beginning of the season.

In the first match of the season, the Rangers took on crosstown rival Forest Hills Northern, a team that has been a mainstay at the top of the conference for the past couple of years. From the beginning, both the boys and girls were blown out of the water by the Huskies. The youthful Rangers failed to find their rhythm, with the scores being 26-4 and 25-5 in favor of the Huskies.

“Coming into the season, one of our goals was to start the season with a huge win over Northern,” senior Zoey Guikema said. “That loss was an early blow to the season.”

The Rangers didn’t find much more success in the next match. Against another conference power in the Northview Wildcats, both teams had more individual success than the previous week, but overall the team failed to impress. The boys fell by a resounding 29-1, their worst loss of the season; the girls didn’t fare much better, losing 26-4

One positive from this matchup was the individual success of Ben, Zoey, and senior Sydney Payne. As Vermeer said, this season was full of growth. Northview was a prime example of that, as Ben bowled an impressive 189; the girls bowled just as well, as Zoey bowled a 178 and was closely followed by Sydney’s 165.

“From the week before [against Northern], our team had already improved,” junior Ryan Andrews said. “I could easily see future successes based off of that performance.”

Just two days later, things didn’t get much better. Taking on Cedar Springs, this game was a perfect example of some of the scoring inconsistencies suffered throughout the season. A positive to take out of the day was the early emergence of Alex, who really started to pick up the pace with his score of 166. Unfortunately, the individual performance was not nearly enough and the boys fell 28.5-1.5 while the girls fell by a more respectable 23-7.

Against the Ottawa Hills Bengals, the Rangers recorded their first victory of the season. The girls team generated some serious momentum, destroying the Bengals by an impressive 28-2 behind Sydney Payne’s game of 125. Thanks to Ben’s score of 182, the boys defeated the Bengals 16.5-13.5. However, the more important thing to take out of this win was the entrance of sophomore Tommy Payne into the varsity lineup.

In the next matchup with the Lowell Red Arrows, Tommy made his mark. He bowled a 196 in only his second varsity appearance, a score that was a season-high for the Rangers at the time.

“[Tommy] going from being ‘not a bowler’ to grabbing a starting spot on varsity in a matter of a few weeks is really something,” Vermeer said. “He was a huge asset for us from there on out.”

Also bowling out of their shoes that day was Tommy’s sister, Sydney. Sydney bowled a 171 against the Red Arrows, a season-high for her. Unfortunately, the Payne siblings didn’t get the assistance from their teammates that they needed, losing 21-9 and 20-10.

After almost a month break, the bowlers returned to action at the Lowell Invitational. The boys failed to find much success, failing to place in the top eight and subsequently getting eliminated from the knockout round.

Contrary to the boys, the girls found their first real meaningful success of the season. They finished in sixth place in the seeding and then defeated Forest Hills Eastern handily in the first round of knockout play. Due to some inconsistencies in the semifinals, the Rangers did eventually fall to Unity Christian; however, there were plenty of positives to take out of that performance.

“Taking fourth in a major tournament like that is an awesome accomplishment,” Vermeer said.

Next up for the Rangers was the Greenville Yellow Jackets, who led the conference at the time with some huge wins over Northview and Northern. Right away, the boys went down 10-0 in the Baker games. In order to win that game, something special needed to happen. Ben had by far his best bowl of the season just after going down 10-0, bowling a 245—the team-high on the year.

Things started to pick up for the Rangers after Ben’s impressive score. After Ben’s game, each member of the team won their individual matchup.

“Ben’s tremendous game really motivated us all to play better,” Ryan said.

On the girls side, Sydney Payne had her best overall performance of the year, bowling a 168 and 167.

“She was a great model for the other teammates,” Zoey said. “She was an integral part of the team, helping us reach season-high scores in our Baker games.”

Sydney’s showing wasn’t enough to win the game, as the girls fell just short with an 18-12 loss.

Two days later, the momentum generated took a serious hit. In the rematch against Northern, things didn’t get better. Tommy returned to the leading scorers with his 165, but other than that, the 25-5 and 26-4 losses were a tough pill to swallow.

After the tough loss against the Huskies, things got worse in the next rematch with the Northview Wildcats. The Payne siblings led the way once again, with Tommy bowling a 166 and Sydney surpassing him with a 174. The contributions from the rest of the team didn’t add up to much, as both teams fell 29-1—their worst losses of the season.

During the rematch against Lowell, the junior duo of Ben and Alex led the way once again with scores of 180 apiece. Senior Addy Kaechele made her first appearance on the top of the leader board, scoring a 174. In the latter stages of the games, both teams slowed down. The boys fell 23-7, while the girls lost 22-8.

In the last regular-season match of the season, the boys did something special. Ben, leading the way with his spectacular 232, and the rest of the boys following closely behind, bowled their best scores of the season. After losing 28.5-1.5 to Cedar Springs earlier in the season, this 16-14 win over the Red Hawks was arguably the boys’ best win of the season.

“During the last few weeks of the season, we looked like a whole different team,” Vermeer said. “Beating Cedar Springs, who won this year’s conference championship, was a great indicator of what next year could look like.”

In the conference tournament, the day was highlighted by individual success. Both teams failed to make it out of the first round collectively, but Alex, Zoey, and Sydney were all recognized for their individual accomplishments: Alex, for his high season average, Zoey, for her top-ten finish at the tournament, and Sydney, who was named an honorable mention on the all-conference team.

At the Regional Finals the next week, both teams finished in the middle of the pack. The boys finished in tenth, while the girls finished in twelfth. The boys did better than expected on the day, competing and holding their own with the region’s best. The girls bowled their highest Baker game of the year en route to their twelfth-place finish, something that they should be proud of.

The next day at the individual Regionals, Alex bowled his best when it counted most. He bowled a 225 and a 194, the former being his season-high. With his stellar bowling, Alex finished in fifth place and moved on to the State Championships. Falling just short of the top ten was Ben, who started off slowly but heated up at the end, finishing in fifteenth—just five places short of a trip to States.

The girls didn’t have as much individual success, as Zoey led the way for the Lady Rangers in thirty-second place. Closely following her was Sydney, who finished in forty-eighth.

At the State Championships, Alex finished in fifty-first place. With a very competitive field, Alex was only 100 pins short of a top-30 finish. With a high score of 202, he showed what growth he made throughout the season.

Overall, the boys finished with a 3-7 record; the girls finished similarly with a 1-9 record. For Vermeer, he is going to miss this senior-filled girls team.

“Not only did the girls win some key matches and place well in a tournament,” Vermeer said, “but they also worked very well together and continued to bring a lot of fun and laughter to the team as a whole.”