The Leyden roster at Friday's IHSA girls state bowling finals lists two freshmen, three sophomores and a junior in the lineup.
So much for experience breeding success.
The surprising, youthful Eagles, fresh off rocking last Saturday's Franklin Park sectional with a spectacular 867-pin victory to advance to Rockford, brought the same fire to the first day of the state meet Friday at Cherry Bowl Lanes.
Led by Reba Hall, who soared to third place in the individual standings, Leyden (6,077) finished the day in sixth place -- but just 163 pins off the lead in a tightly bunched field.
Andrew leads the tournament with a total pinfall of 6,240 heading into what promises to be today's thrilling round two finale.
"We had a good day," said Eagles coach Chris Aylward. "We were able to use different girls at different times to take advantage of when the lanes were oily and when they dried up. We've got a group of girls who can bowl in all different lane conditions and that's a recipe for success."
The most successful of all was Hall, who had the top freshman score in the 2011 state tournament and said last season's introduction to Cherry Bowl gave her a much needed leg up this year.
The sophomore averaged 231.2 in six games, including five over 200 with a top of 267.
"We all worked together today," said Hall. "Everyone on our team pulled their weight every single game.
"I knew what to expect after competing here last year and I was able to use that experience to help our freshmen."
One of the first-year players that gave a big assist to the Leyden effort was Ashley Kriston. She fired a series of 1,239 including a high game of 234 (twice) and said that once she got control of her nerves it was onward and upward.
"At the start of first game I was so nervous I was shaking bad," said Kriston, "but it helped that my teammates were there for me and calmed me down. After the first frame or two I relaxed and was able to get into a groove."
Junior Morgan Flaherty of Lincoln-Way West used a game six 278 to vault into the individual lead with a 1,430 total, 32 pins better than Joliet West sophomore Julianne Kowalski and only 43 ahead of Hall, while Taylor Rigwood of Vernon Hills fell just short of perfection with a sixth game 299.
Minooka, Waubonsie Valley, defending champion Harlem and 2010 titlist Collinsville round out the top five in the wide-open team race, while it was an up-and-down day for Mid-Suburban League qualifiers Elk Grove and Hoffman Estates.
Neither the Grenadiers nor Hawks were able to crack the top 12 in the team competition to advance to day two, but there were some standout performances individually.
Elk Grove junior Abby Nix sees herself in 18th place overall after counting games of 266, 242 and 223 Friday. Nix is only 148 pins out of first place as 37 bowlers are within 200 pins of the top in one of the most competitive races in years.
Tedra Tado, a Grens senior, rolled a high game of 256 to finish the first session in 29th place while Hoffman sophomore Sarah Wille's morning series of 662 helped lead her to 37th position.
Elk Grove senior Ashley Dolce fired a second-game 233 en route to a 1,196 six-game total; Buffalo Grove senior Mariah McVay counted a 212 game; Conant senior Samantha Pincenti opened her first state finals with a first-game 206; while junior teammate Courtney Slavich matched her with a 206 in game six.
Prospect's Ali Mulcahy rolled a top game of 225 in the morning session.
"Ali fought hard all day," said Knights coach Greg Troyer. "She shot higher than her yearlong average. There were a lot of high scores in the morning today but as the day rolled on it got real difficult unless you had a lot of speed or a lot of hand on the ball."
Junior Danielle Trevino (1,207 series), sophomore Erika Pimentel (1,184), seniors Sara Danek (206 high game), Nicole Witczak and freshman Nicole Pitsenbarger all made contributions to the outstanding Leyden effort -- and now the Eagles look forward to today's action.
"We are in the mix," said Aylward. "We were hoping to keep the momentum going that we gained in the last few tournaments of the year and we did that."
"Now we know who our main competition is," added Kriston, referring to the five teams ahead of Leyden that separate the Eagles from a state championship. "Tomorrow, we've got to step it up."