ROCKFORD -- It might seem like a dream, but for Sami Jo Zak of Grant, it's really happening.
She's on a roll and just might end up as one of the best bowlers state tournament at Cherry Bowl Lanes after a terrific effort in Friday's action.
Zak has herself in fifth place, 35 pins behind tournament leader Emily Malone of Rockford Jefferson through 6 games with a 1,339.
"If you told me two weeks ago I'd be in a place that I'm in, I'd never believe it," Zak said. "I've been on a run for so long to qualify -- now it keeps getting better and better.
"I really never expected all of this. It was my goal to qualify for the second day. I was hoping that everything would work out and it was better than I ever expected."
Zak actually didn't start out with a good frame of mind in practice on Thursday evening. But she put that behind her when the tournament got under way Friday morning.
"I had practiced the night before and it didn't go to well," Zak said. "I was just frustrated and I was leaving a lot of splits. I figured I wasn't going to have fun. It was mostly a mental thing."
Zak started out with a 648 series with games of 178, 212 and 258. Then, she followed up with a 245, 210 and 236 for a career-best 691 afternoon series.
Sarah Littleton and of Grayslake North (1,180) and Libertyville's Emma Davellis (1,166) both qualified for the second day.
Littleton had a slow start in the morning with a 532 but recovered over the final three games with a 648. She rolled games of a 201, 235 and 212.
"I didn't think I would make it after the way I bowled the first half," Littleton said. "I really didn't do that hot. I was able to put things together in the last three games. I had to learn to adjust well."
Davellis stayed consistent with a 576 and a 590. She rolled high games of 225 and 222.
"I've learned how to keep calm," Davellis said. "I've realized that you have a whole day to make it."
Grayslake North and Lake Zurich were making their first ever trips to state in girls bowling.
The Knights ended up in 20th place with a team total of 5,245 with 2,567 for the first three games and 2,678 over the last three.
"It was a great opportunity for the girls and they now know what state is all about," Grayslake North coach Laura Berterman said. "They know what it takes and they've seen teams shoot so high. Once we started to have fun then they shot much better."
The Bears also shot beyond their expectations, with 2,662 in the morning and followed up with a 2,413.
"I thought we bowled better than we have all year," Lake Zurich coach Mel Fox said. "The girls were in it all day and they supported each other. They had an amazing experience."
Lockport and Rockford Jefferson are tied for first with 6,163 pins through the first day of competition.
Waubonsie Valley is third (6,077) and trails the leaders by 86 pins with 6 more games on Saturday. The Warriors shot five out of their six games over 1,000 and cracked 1,100 with an 1,116 in their second game.
Julia Bond led Waubonsie Valley with a 1,323 and a high game of 257. Other contributors were Sara Barsotti (1,271), Charley Barbary (1,165), Marianna Guerrieri (1,161), Rachel Felton (1,157).
"I thought the team was doing well," Waubonsie Valley coach Marty Miller said. "You just ask your bowlers to be very mature, grind it out, be patient and close frames. Their job is to execute and not get too far ahead."
Leyden holds down the sixth spot with 5,808. The Eagles rolled five of their six games in the 900s and had a top game of 1,075.
Reba Hall led Leyden with a 1,308. Other efforts came from Ashley Kriston (1,161), Erika Pimentel (1,148), Danielle Trevino (1,139), Nicole Lassin (873-5 games) and Nicole Pitsenbarger (179).
"We had a slow start in the morning and rallied," Leyden coach Chris Aylward said. "We were able to beat Jefferson with a big game."
Lake Park currently is eighth (5,671), and Prospect also advanced to the second day (5,617).
Individually, bowlers that qualified on Saturday include Ashlee Putney of Glenbard East (1,262), Courtney Slavich (Conant) and Palatine's Katie Conrad (1,235), Tony Barton of Fenton and Sarah Wille (Hoffman Estates) 1,161 and Conant's Angela Anzalone (1,144)
"It's kind of bittersweet for me, because I wanted to go with the team," Slavich said. "Bowling by yourself isn't the same at all. I had to do that last year. I do know the lanes better and I want to take it one shot at a time (Saturday). I'm thinking relaxing is a big part of it."