Libertyville's girls bowling team won its first North Suburban Conference meet in 12 years on Friday.
That great accomplishment was especially poignant for the Wildcats' Taylor Sloan.
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She'd undergone heart surgery in August but managed to make her way back to compeitition in time to contribute to the team and sport she loves.
"Actually, it didn't hit me until after surgery, three months afterward," said Sloan, a sophomore. "It's a weird feeling. I never realized I'd really had heart surgery, until one day, we watched a video in Driver's Ed class. That's when it hit home. I went home cried to my mom (Jennifer)."
No tears Friday -- just cheers and smiles for Libertyville, which won during the 6-game tournament with a team total of 5,125 pins, beating runner-up Warren by 38 pins.
The Wildcats outbowled the Blue Devils 865 to 803 in the final game to come back from a 24-pin deficit.
"They work hard out there, and it was a grind," Libertyville coach Lindsey Siegel said. "It wasn't an easy shot for anybody.
"They weren't allowed to look at anybody else's (pins) but ours. Just get as many pins down as you can. Nothing here was a cakewalk. Any team can beat anybody on any given day."
But Sloan's journey puts winning and losing into a much different context.
"Having Taylor, we're so lucky to have such good talent," Siegel said. "These girls put their heart and soul into it. Taylor goes out and practices all the time, and it amazes me. Thankfully, her health is good right now. She can be out here to enjoy bowling and enjoy what she's doing."
Sloan had been suffering from panic attacks for three years. She started a journal to keep track of what she was going through. But last summer her mom, Jennifer, noticed there was more to the picture. Her boyfriend, Michael Hall, is an internist and noticed that Taylor's heart rate was a little too fast.
"He pulled me aside and stated that we should bring her in and get checked out," Jennifer said. "Then surgery was scheduled six weeks later.
"She hasn't had any problems since then, she's doing good."
Taylor made it back to bowling about a month later, and was a little cautious about coming back. She averaged 175 last season but she has improved to a 184 this year, with a high game of 262 at the Fenton Invitational.
Taylor tied for sixth place in the NSC Conference meet with Kayla Rossi of Warren at 1,088. Sloan's high game was 223.
"I learned so much in having to deal with it in the first place," Sloan said. "Now that I don't have to deal with it, everything is so much easier to work on. It did take a while to get comfortable bowling again."
Libertyville's Emma Davellis rolled a final game 243 Saturday and finished third with an 1,105. Other Wildcats were Natalie Zeng 1,041, Kaci Cibrario 965, Ally Doherty 622 (four games) and Jackie Garcia 304 (two games).
Warren led the tournament going into the final game but saw Libertyville take over the top spot.
"Game six we were just missing some easy spares," Warren coach Rich Novak said. "Libertyville shot great that final game and we couldn't keep up with them. We just need to work more on our spares going into the regionals next week."
Other scorers from the Blue Devils were Elizabeth Harrison (1,046), Jaime Bratzke (1,034), Ariel Haith (1,033) and Emily Hughes (886).
Wauconda freshman Deidre Loos was the top individual bowler, finishing with 1,260. She had a high game of 258 and 634 over the first three games, then tossed a 626 over the last three games.
"I'm really happy to get first," Loos said. "I was scared coming in. I was trying to have fun and stayed relaxed. If I messed up, I shook it off and rolled my mark on the next ball. I never got down about it."
Stevenson's Kaitlyn Rudy was the runner-up with a 1,190 and a high game of 257.