Conant coach Jennifer Mikrut knew it was going to be a good day for the Cougars after only two games were in the books at Saturday's Fremd girls bowling sectional.
"We were in first place at that time," said Mikrut, "and it really gave the girls a lot of confidence. It was an outstanding kickoff to the day and they were excited. At that point, I think they knew what they could do."
What the Cougars did was erase the memory of last year's sectional tournament -- when Conant missed out on a state berth by just 8 pins -- to win Saturday at Arlington Lanes and advance to this weekend's IHSA state tournament at Cherry Bowl Lanes in Rockford.
Conant's six-game score of 5,838 bested second-place Prospect by just 73 pins.
But the Knights weren't disappointed as they also qualified for a trip to Cherry Bowl this Friday and Saturday with their runner-up fimish.
"I'm so thrilled, I'm still shaking," said Cougars standout Angela Anzalone, who led the way by posting the top individual score of 1,311 that included games of 266 and 225.
The freshman's superior performance was almost 200 pins better than her nearest competitor -- junior Sarah Wille of Hoffman Estates -- who also advanced to Rockford as an individual.
"I wanted to make it to state in my first year, " said Anzalone. "But I'm not done. I'm hoping to go all four years."
Junior Katelynn Bieber led the way for Prospect with a 1,248 six-game series that included a high game 244.
Junior classmate Nicole Cusack was close behind with a 1,243 series that featured a 254 high game.
"This was so much fun -- and it was so intense," said Bieber. "Our fans were awesome. Any time we would make a spare we could hear them screaming. "Today was all about teamwork. We pulled together and we all supported each other."
Annie Witt (1,147, 236 high game), Jordyn Wagner (1,142), Courtney Slavich (1,122) and Katie Harrold all counted scores for the victorious Cougars.
Other local bowlers of note made their presence felt Saturday.
Katie Conrad from Palatine led the list of possible at-large individual qualifiers by rolling games of 233 and 203 en route to a 1,210 total.
Kayleigh Burnitz of Fremd (1,172), Allison Peters of Elk Grove (1,162), and Caitlin Wooton of Rolling Meadows also made the at large-list.
A trio of Prospect bowlers made clutch contributions to the Knights' advancement.
Samantha Victor (1,196), Meghan Mulcahy (1,066) and Kayla Jagus (1,012) all excelled.
"The kids were awesome all day," said Prospect coach Greg Troyer. "After our disappointing showing at the Mid-Suburban League tourney last week (the Knights finished fifth), the girls had a great week of practice. They came out and stepped up."
St. Ignatius sectional: Schaumburg, led by Danielle Yohe's 1,189 total pinfall, finished second at the Saxons' own sectional tournament at Poplar Creek. That enabled the Saxons to punch their ticket to state.
Shannon Maiers pitched in for the Saxons with a 1,072,
Leyden earned a return trip to Rockford by winning the title at the St. Ignatius sectional. The Eagles boasted four of the top five bowlers at Town Hall Lanes in Cicero.
Danielle Trevino was best with a 1,095, followed closely by Reba Hall (1,084), Erika Pimentel (1,069) and Ashley Kriston (1,016).