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Minooka girls take first step with title

The Minooka girls bowling team shows off its regional championship trophy Saturday after taking first place at the Minooka Regional.
The Minooka girls bowling team shows off its regional championship trophy Saturday after taking first place at the Minooka Regional.

CHANNAHON – When you go on a trip, that journey usually starts from home.

On Saturday, the Minooka girls bowling team began their trip to the state finals in Rockford at home. The Indians hosted one of the regional bowling tournaments at Channahon Lanes, and as expected, Minooka’s trip started as planned by earning the regional title.

They won by 434 pins over second place Joliet West. Lincoln-Way West and Plainfield Central also qualified for next week’s sectionals at Illinois Valley Super Bowl in Peru.

This year’s Indians are a very young team, but the expectations are always the same with this tradition rich program.

“Yes, we are very young, but we come in with the same expectations every season for our program and that is to make it to the state finals,” Minooka coach Frank Yudzentis said. “All teams are different, but the goals, the expectations and what we do remain the same.”

The experienced veterans of the group are two juniors – Kristina Sickler and Gina Russell. They are joined by junior Janey Schmidt, sophomore Alyssa Ritchie and freshmen Kiara Backstrom, Jenna Newton, Megan Gillson and Ashley Driscoll.

“Gina and I are the old veterans of the team,” Sickler, who won the regional title, said with a laugh. “We have tried to really help everyone with the concepts and our approach to team bowling. We always try and pick each other up, and it’s just fine to make a spare. Not every ball is going to be a strike. This team has a lot of fun together and you have to be relaxed.”

Yudzentis knew from the start of the season his team would be young and somewhat inexperienced, but they are talented.

“We have four freshmen, but
they all have solid games and experience,” Yudzentis said. “From
being successful in junior high to gaining valuable experience over the summer. They have all bought in to understanding and trusting our process
on the high school level.

“Team bowling is a different sport that just going out there and bowling in a tournament for yourself. It’s a different mindset and everyone has bought into the team first attitude. That is one thing that Kristina and Gina have really done an outstanding job with this season – become leaders of this team. It’s hard in any sport to take over as a junior and they have matured and grown during the process.”

The one thing the Minooka program has done during their run of success is to use the regular season as a learning experince to get ready for the final three weeks of the state run.

“You use the regular season to gain experience, to go through the high’s and low’s,” Yudzentis said. “You want to stay more in the middle, you never want to get too high or too low and that is what we have done a good job with this season. 

“This group has worked well together, it’s a very fun group with a lot of different personalities, but they are so together. The success for a team is not to rely on one person to roll that big game all the time. This is a team game and that is why you have five bowlers, all of their scores count.”

With the sectionals in Peru and the top four teams qualifying for the state finals, Yudzentis has tried to do his research on the house he is not too familiar with.

“I think I might of bowled there like 20 years ago, but I really don’t remember much about it,” Yudzentis said. “But, I’ve done a little research and from what I found it is a very good scoring alley. We will go over and practice, but no matter who is in the sectional or how the alleys set up we just need to bowl our game.

“That is another good thing this team has really learned and done a great job with – forget all the peripheral stuff. You can only control your game, how you do. In the end it’s up to you.”

The team started this trip at home, will drive to Peru and then, hopefully go north to Rockford. It’s a three week journey that will be completed on Feb. 17. All of the fuel for this trip has been gathered for the past months, during all the practices, tournaments and experiences along the way.

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