Elk Grove sophomore Kayleigh Duff said that she wanted to bowl her best at Saturday's Resurrection sectional to "help our seniors get back to state."
Mission accomplished, and then some.
Duff fired a 6-game series of 1179, including a high game of 236, to take individual medal honors and lead the Grenadiers to a first-place finish and a berth at next weekend's state tournament in Rockford.
Teammate Tedra Tado, one of the seniors Duff spoke about, finished second overall with a total pinfall of 1,152 as the Grens (5571) bested second-place Hoffman Estates by a whopping 465 pins at Habetler Bowl in Chicago.
The Hawks claimed the sectional's other state berth in a thriller that came right down to the final frame, as their total of 5,106 was just 6 pins better than third-place Prospect and only 8 ahead of fourth-place Conant.
Courtney Slavich of the Cougars and Prospect's Ali Mulcahy claimed the tourney's two automatic individual state qualifications.
"We were clicking from the start today," said Duff. "We wanted to move on to the next level -- it was a goal of ours from Day 1."
Grens senior Dana Ohm pitched in with a 1,107, good for sixth position overall, to help Elk Grove move on to Cherry Bowl Lanes for the second time in three years.
"From the very first game I had the feeling that we were going to state," said Elk Grove coach Kim Sander. "We were bowling so well, and we kept the momentum going with a 1,003 in the third game. The girls all pulled together -- they're a very talented team and they showed what they were made of today."
Hoffman Estates trailed Conant by 75 pins heading into the final game but overcame both the Cougars and Prospect by firing a Game 6 total of 916 in a pulse-pounding finish.
"Our coach (Dan Pfligler) didn't want to put the pressure on us by letting us know how far behind we were," said Hawks senior Brittany Gray (1,027 pins knocked down, including a clutch 181 in the final game). "He just told us that we had to bring our 'A' game and bowl at least a 900 series -- and we went out and got it."
"It was heart-pumping to say the least," said Pfligler. "We had to bowl our best and then wait for Prospect to finish. I still don't think my heart's pumping right."
Hoffman sophomore Sarah Wille led the team with a 1127 6-game series.
Meanwhile, it was a bittersweet day for Conant junior Slavich. She earned her state trip on the strength of a 1,137 (239 game), good for third overall. But she was disappointed that her team fell just short.
"I'm excited, of course," said the junior, "but we were so close to moving on as a team. I would have rather done it that way, but my teammates are coming (to Rockford) to support me, and that means a lot.
"It was nerve-wracking all day. We only lost by 8, and I'm the anchor bowler so I had that nervous and dreading feeling each time I let go of the ball, waiting to see what would happen."
Mulcahy rolled a 1,112 series to move on to Rockford, while Conant's Samantha Pincenti (1,103) took seventh, Allison Walsh of Prospect (1,069) was ninth, and Abbey Hill from Rolling Meadows (1,049) took 13th.
Pincenti, Walsh and Hill are wait-listed as at-large qualifiers. Six additional sectional-wide competitors will advance to Rockford from the at-large list in results that will be announced Monday.
Hersey had its best performance of the season at Habetler. Led by senior Jess Caraba (1,022), the Huskies rolled their way to sixth place in the 17-team field.
Rolling Meadows, led by Natalie Cannizzo (1,022) finished seventh.
Jessica Paneral (938) led the way for eighth-place Palatine; Samanthat Rossdeutscher (974) was best for Fremd; Conant's Sammie van de Linde (1035) and Prospect's Cassie Bach (1012) enjoyed stellar tourneys; while Elk Grove also got clutch contributions from senior Ashley Dolce (1,055) and junior Abby Nix (1078, 8th position).
"We didn't feel any pressure at all today," said Nix. "We were focused and having fun."
DeKalb sectional: The host Barbs and Marengo earned the team state advancement spots, while Schaumburg finish fifth (5,418) in the team race at at Mardis Gras Lanes.
Automatic individual state advancement went to St. Charles East's Katherine Sulaitis and Jacobs' Sarah Siska.
Schaumburg sophomore Rachel Vincent rolled 1,230 and has the top performance for at-large state tournament consideration.
Leyden sectional: The host Eagles claimed the top team spot at Brunswick Zone River Grove with a total pinfall of 6,126, well ahead of runner-up York (5,259). Both qualified as teams for next weekend's state tournament.
Leyden sophomore Reba Hall rolled to the inidivual win with a 1,454 series. Trinity's Tara Quinlan (1,296) was second, followed by Erika Pimentel of Leyden (1,216), Marisa Stallman of York 1,212 and Morgan Pruitt of York (1,167).
Individual advancement went to Quinlan and Nikki Pochay of Fenton (1,142).