This year's IHSA girls' bowling state series features a new twist.
A regional level of competition has been added where the top 4 teams in each regional and the top 10 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the sectional round. Regionals get underway Saturday morning.
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District 300 neighbors Jacobs and Dundee-Crown are two Fox Valley-area teams looking to carry over regular-season success into the new postseason format.
Jacobs is part of the Sycamore regional (Huntley also is there) at Four Seasons Bowling Center (9 a.m. start). The Golden Eagles are fresh off their fourth Fox Valley Conference title in 5 seasons.
Jacobs came into the FVC tournament tied for second and ended up winning the conference title.
"The season has been a little inconsistent, but we seem to be bowling better as a team lately," Jacobs coach Jim Rood said.
Mariclare Daniels finished third at the FVC tournament, while Michelle Morrison joined her on the all-conference team after a ninth-place showing. Daniels averages 183 a game, while Lyric Dodson leads the team with a 185 average. Daniels rolled a 232 game to spark the team at the conference meet.
"We all work together and we all have positive attitudes," Daniels said. "We all help each other out and that's what we rely on every day."
Dodson said familiarity with each other has helped tremendously this season. She's one of four seniors on the varsity along with Morrison, Zoe Carrie and Alexis Cabrera.
"Four of the five starting team members have been together the last 4 years," Dodson said. "We have a strong friendship and a ton of chemistry. We always pull together and make the best of the situation."
Cabrera noted this year's group has a strong desire to keep the program's recent winning tradition alive.
"We won conference my first two years and then fell short last year," she said. "There was a lot of motivation this year to win again."
And Cabrera feels the team is in a position to do well when the stakes are even higher starting this weekend.
"We are very well-prepared," she said. "We've put in a lot of work as a team. We need to back each other up an focus on every shot and bowl our hearts out Saturday."
Dundee-Crown, part of the Buffalo Grove regional at Arlington Lanes in Arlington Heights Saturday, is enjoying the best season in program history. The Chargers went 6-1 in FVC duals and finished in second place in the conference, two points behind Jacobs. The Chargers were 9 pins shy of winning the conference title.
Seniors Karissa Gonio and Amanda Smith, along with sophomore Angie Tripp earned all-FVC honors, while freshman Illeana Fribley has made an immediate impact at the varsity level with her 150 average in her first bowling season.
"I feel very confident that the team will move on (to sectionals)," said D-C coach Dave Mensching.
Like their District 300 counterparts, team chemistry has played a key role for the Chargers.
"It's the relationships we share as a team," said Smith. "When we feel down, we push each other up. We give each other tips and help each other out. That's what makes us successful. The bond this team has and the leadership on the team has helped everybody realize their potential and succeed."
The five Elgin Area School District U-46 teams will head to Parkside Lanes in Aurora Saturday for the Metea Valley regional.
Larkin went 17-13 in the UEC River this season and took third place. Jordan Dick led the Royals with a 13th-place conference finish (158.9 average). Haley Hansen also has been a key contributor.
"Haley has been very consistent and is one of our leaders," Larkin coach Rich Heisel said. "Jordan is our other leader and has the ability to excel."
Sophomores Rachael McDonough and Isabel Guadalajara have improved of late.
"Both Rachael and Isabel have been improving greatly this year," said Heisel. "I believe in this team and believe they can do surprising things. The first things they need to believe in is themselves and to having fun. If they bowl as they are capable of doing, I think there is a great possibility (at the regional Saturday)."
Streamwood had 12 wins in UEC River action and finished fourth. Jordan Ankebrant finished 11th in the conference with a 154.5 average. Senior Kristen Strand averaged 142 a game, while sophomore sister Kelsey Strand bowled recent series of 510 and 484 (at the UEC position night).
"We had a better than usual season because we had 12 girls who consistently came prepared and were enthusiastic to bowl," said Streamwood coach Connie Kott. "If our girls bowl their best, they just might make it through."
Elgin placed fifth in the UEC River and is led by Breanna Tinder, who placed 12th in the league with a 152.1 average.
South Elgin was fifth in the UEC Valley. The Storm is led by Jordan Waichunas (144.2 average). Bartlett was sixth in the Valley. Rachel Korn placed 14th in conference with a 164.7 average. Natalie Gonzalez averaged 147.9 in conference action.
Westminster Christian also is part of the Metea Valley field. Senior Lauren Mason leads the Warriors with a 147.3 average. Rachel Rich and Tiffany Bertsche also are key contributors.
"It's a solid regional," said Westminster coach John Wedell. "If Lauren, Rachel or Tiffany bowl their best, they may have a shot at one of the last individual spots.
The Sycamore and Metea Valley regional qualifiers advance to the Freeport sectional at 4-Seasons Bowling Center next Saturday. The Buffalo Grove qualifiers head to the Zion-Benton sectional next Saturday at Sunset Lanes in Waukegan.