The two local entrants, Minooka and Morris, will enter the girls bowling state series Saturday morning having won conference championships within the past week.
Both Southwest Prairie Conference champion Minooka and Morris, which earned at least a tie of the Northern Illinois Big 12 title by winning the conference tournament, know that hardware earned to this point is irrelevant going forward.
They are both among the 11 teams that will compete at the Joliet West Regional at Town and Country Lanes in Joliet, which is Minooka’s home alley. A top-four finish is necessary to advance to the Feb.15 Moline Sectional. Four teams also will advance from the sectional to the state tournament.
“The way the team is bowling, I think we have a really good shot at going – good shot to move on from regionals, then I don’t know. It gets harder as you go through,” junior Taylor Warwick said after helping Morris defeat DeKalb 3,581-2,995 in its final home meet. “When sectionals come, I hope that we kick butt, because I really want to go to state as a team; experience that with the seniors before they leave.”
In 2013, Minooka and Morris both competed at the Rich East Sectional (there was not a regional round). Minooka placed second to earn a fourth straight state-tournament berth. Morris was eliminated with its seventh-place finish and has not qualified as a team since 2010, although Brianna Washburn did so as an individual in 2012.
Two NIB12 teams, Ottawa and Streator, are in the regional, as is SPC team Plainfield South. Minooka bowled a dual with Joliet West, but it has not faced some of the teams from central Illinois. Most of the teams Minooka has already encountered, coach Frank Yudzentis said, are dangerous.
“There’s some good teams, some known teams. Joliet West is very good,” Yudzentis said. “Harry Banks is going a great job with [Morris]. They’re red-hot. Plainfield South, bowling in their home house, you can’t discount them. Then you’re gonna see more teams that you haven’t seen, and you don’t know what they have. There’s two teams from Decatur coming in. Traditionally, Eisenhower has had good bowling programs.”
The other two regionals that feed into the Moline Sectional, which will be hosted by Bolingbrook and LaSalle-Peru, contain all of the SPC teams not at Joliet West, though several NIB12 teams will head elsewhere if they advance. What Banks and Yudzentis know about the sectional field, though, concerns them.
“The sectional’s going to be a hard sectional,” Banks said. “We got a lot of hard schools that are probably gonna be at that sectional.”