JOLIET — The three most important girls bowing tournaments Minooka entered during the past calendar year are, arguably, the 2012 state final and its 2013 conference and sectional events.
The Indians finished second at state last February. In late January, they were second to Oswego East at the 2013 Southwest Prairie Conference Tournament. And when they bowled at the Rich East Sectional last Saturday, they finished in — you guessed it — second place.
Minooka has had several wins during and just before that time frame, as well. The Indians won the 2012 Joliet West Sectional, and have wins at Plainfield North's Strikefest and in six of their seven SPC duals on their resume for 2013. But with just one event — this weekend's 2013 state final tournament — left on the schedule, they hope to end the trend in big events.
"I hope we break out of that," junior Emily Koulis said. "That's too many twos."
Of course, the Indians are not hoping to be one of the 22 teams that finish lower than second place at the tournament.
"I hope we break that streak and place first," senior Alison Warwick said. "I'm confident we can do it if we continue to bowl as a team and stay positive and pump each other up."
Veteran coach Frank Yudzentis says that, to have a chance to end their trend of finishing second, the Indians will have to end another trend — their recent performance.
"That was as poorly as we have bowled all year," Yudzentis said of the sectional, where the Indians totaled 5,831 pins to just hold off Joliet West's 5,823 for the final spot at state.
"The girls put a lot of pressure on themselves. They really wanted to go to state and they bowled tight. Every game, we had a 160 game from somebody. Thankfully, from about the fourth frame of the last game, the girls finally relaxed. I don't know what it was, but when the pressure was really on, everyone relaxed and bowled a lot better.
"We feel like we have a second chance. Fortunately there was another team that didn't bowl as well as we thought they would, either, so our score was good enough."
Warwick thinks that can happen because the Indians can bowl at state with the satisfaction of knowing they are already state qualifiers.
"The pressure was in getting there," Warwick said. "We all wanted to (qualify) so much, and now that we're there, we can relax a little bit. We all love bowling (at The Cherry Bowl in Rockford). I can't wait to see how we do."
The sectional performance could actually benefit Minooka in a way.
"People might look past us. It may have diminished the expectations people have for us, and I think that eases the pressure and puts us in a position where we could surprise some people," Yudzentis said.
"I think the pressure's off, personally, especially after the way we bowled at the sectional," Koulis said. "We still want to prove what we can do, but now that we're there, we can more or less relax and enjoy it."