MINOOKA — Twenty-two.
That's the number of pins the Minooka Indians girls bowling team came within winning the 3A state title last year. The Indians actually led with two games left before losing to Andrew.
"The initial shock was awful. It was like 'Wow, 22 pins. If only one of us picked up an extra spare or something,'" returning senior Alison Warwick said.
Even though it was a tough loss, Minooka head coach Frank Yudzentis and the rest of the team came to grasp the fact of what they had just accomplished.
"After it all happened, I think the girls realized they were second in the state and what an incredible run they went on," Yudzentis said. "To have the success we had throughout the year was quite an accomplishment."
The loss was tough to take, but the finish is something which Minooka looks to build off of this year.
"It was heartbreaking last year, but now we realize that we need to come back and even be better than we were last year," returning junior Emily Koulis said.
Experience should be on the side of the Indians this season, as Minooka returns three (Warwick, Koulis, and senior Allyson Lakota) of the five bowlers that went down to the state meet last year. That experience should prove to be a key component to the success of the Indians.
"We've been to state the past three years, and last year was the first year we met our expectations," Yudzentis said. "To have that experience of bowling in that situation and to be so close is really going to help us this year."
Despite having a lot of experience, Minooka does lose one of its key bowlers from last year in Courtney Johnston, an All-State selection, to graduation.
"I don't know if you ever can replace a girl, you just hope other girls can step in and obtain the same level of success," Yudzentis said.
One thing that will help replace Johnston is the depth Minooka has this year. According to Yudzentis, this is one of the deepest teams that the Indians have had since he's been there.
"We have our three main girls back in Koulis, Warwick and Lakota, but we also have 9 to 10 other girls vying for those final three spots," Yudzentis said. "So the depth on this team is very good."
"We all have very good talent and have all shot really close scores together," Koulis added. "We know how to work as a team and pull together."
With the images of last year's near state title victory on their minds as motivation, this Indians team seems poised to finally close the deal and bring home the state title to Minooka.
"Winning the state title is something I really want to work for, and I really hope our team can pull together and win it," Warwick said.
"The goal every year is to win the state title, and I think we can," Yudzentis said. "Our goal is to not just get back to state but once again vie for the title. There's some good teams out there, but I think our returners are very hungry and really want to get after it out there and bring home a state title."