To this point in the bowling season, Marty Miller has succeeded.
"This season my goal was for us to learn how to win," the Waubonsie Valley girls bowling coach said.
They've won most everything out there.
The varsity core of captain Kaylene Felton, younger sister Rachael Felton, top scorer Julia Bond, Marianna Guerrieri, the wonderfully named Charley Barbary and Julie Schumacher rank No. 1 on the Illinois State Bowling website.
The Warriors have won four of the six high-profile tournaments they've played in. They didn't lose a match, or even a game, in the Upstate Eight Conference.
"But as I told my girls," Miller said, "that might as well have been a hundred years ago."
Early on Saturday the Warriors and 17 other teams, including Lisle, Metea Valley and Neuqua Valley compete at the Plainfield South sectional at Town & Country Lanes in Joliet. The sectional includes the four top teams according to Illinois State Bowling -- Waubonsie, Oswego, Lockport and Oswego East, plus No. 13 Plainfield North. Only two teams will advance to the state finals Feb. 10-11 in Rockford.
"This Saturday we hope that practice and competition will meet on the lanes," Miller said. "That's what happened four times this year (at tournaments), all of our practice and our competition met. That's the goal. We'll do the best we can and then that's all we can do."
It's worked thus far, at a program that hasn't lacked for success. Under coach Amy Rymer, whose daughter Ashley bowled a 300 game in 2004, the Warriors qualified for state in 2006, 2008 and 2009, placing third in state in 2008.
Miller -- who sent children Martin (Class of '95), Deana (1993) and Matt (2001) through Waubonsie -- came aboard in 2009. The Warriors have hardly lost a beat with three straight conference titles, though they seek state advancement for the first time under his coaching. Kaylene Felton advanced as an individual last season, placing 41st with an average of 198.9.
Once on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour -- "it was a dream," he said -- Miller has instructed aspiring bowlers for 35 years and has coached seven players to college scholarships out of his home alley at Parkside Lanes in Aurora.
Arm swing, ball release, ball rotation, spine angle, timing, explosion point -- this is advanced stuff.
"If you're just going to have a Coke and some popcorn and pick up a ball, rent some shoes, have some fun, that's one thing," Miller said. "If you're going to go for college scholarships worth $140,000, that's another thing."
Five of Waubonsie's top six have trained individually under Miller, who has them averaging a little over 200 pins, he said. Kaylene Felton came to him averaging 138 and she's up to 203.
"They work so hard, that's what it's really boiled down to," he said. "And then they have the support of their parents. And they listen."
Waubonsie hasn't stopped working and listening since the end of last season. Saturday the girls will again see if all that practice and competition will meet on the lanes.
"When it's over there's going to be some tears," Miller said. "Hopefully, ours will be tears of joy."
Last Friday in Iowa, accompanied by wife Patti, daughter Angie and son John, St. Francis football coach Greg Purnell was inducted into the Linn-Marr High School Athletic Hall of Fame. From 1981-99 he went 144-49 at the Cedar Rapids-area school with three state titles and five title appearances in 13 playoff seasons.
Under Purnell's direction, Linn-Mar went from a small player to one that challenged and often defeated larger state powers, success which bled into other athletic programs.
"It kind of set the tone," Purnell said.
One of his Linn-Mar quarterbacks, Billy Marko, wrote to Purnell in a letter: "You, more than anyone, changed the trajectory of the school."
Purnell, who was enshrined into the Iowa Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1990 and led St. Francis to the IHSA Class 5A title in 2008, enjoyed the usual perks of hall of fame induction. Coaches he worked with came to show their support as did players, many now middle-aged family men, including three players from his worst (3-6) Linn-Mar team.
"Those are the kids you wouldn't expect to come back," Purnell said.
Losing develops character more than winning, they say, but the constant is the coach. Purnell remembered one player who showed up to camp standing 5-foot-5 and weighing 350 pounds. He stuck it out, no matter how long it took him to finish conditioning drills.
That player shook Purnell's hand last Friday, 100 pounds slimmer and with two children.
"That was probably the neatest memory of the whole thing," Purnell said.
Some good news for Penn State
Volleyball player Matt Callaway wasn't deterred by the obscenities that occurred in Happy Valley. The 6-foot-8 senior middle hitter from Wheaton Warrenville South will head to Penn State for his collegiate career.
"I know that wasn't really anything that has to do with the volleyball program," said Callaway, who with Thomas Jaeschke headed to Loyola and Matt Nussbaum to New York University gives Tigers coach Bill Schreier 21 Division I players in 13 years. Senior Alex Valdez will play for quality Division III program St. Ambrose.
"I still looked at the school and realized they had great academics there," said Callaway, who also had offers from George Mason and Ball State. "It didn't really affect it for me."
Callaway, Jaeschke and Nussbaum -- as well as Willowbrook's Jacob Schmiegelt, Glenbard East's Tim Shenkin and Glenbard West's Tim Lawson, all college-bound -- are teammates on the same Sports Performance Club team, out of Aurora, that recently qualified for its third straight USA Junior Boys Nationals in July.
Visiting Penn State, Callaway felt welcomed by coach Mark Pavlik and assistant Colin McMillan and Nittany Lions players who "made me feel like a part of the team already."
Last year's blocks leader for WW South looks forward to the competition and improvement possibilities Penn State will offer.
"Volleyball is one of the biggest parts of my life," Callaway said, "and it kind of means the world to go to Penn State, because they have a really good program. I'm pretty pumped to go."