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updated: 2/20/2014 6:40 PM

Girls bowling: State tournament scouting, Northwest

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By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent

Girls bowling state preview

When: Friday and Saturday

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Where: Cherry Bowl Lanes, Rockford

Local teams competing: Elk Grove, Hoffman Estates, Leyden, Schaumburg

Local individuals competing: Emma Wrenn, Hersey

The skinny: The top 12 teams advance to the second day of play, as do the top 30 individuals not part of an advancing team. The champions will be crowned after the completion of Saturday's competition.

Defending team champion: Waubonsie Valley

Last year's individual champion: Giselle Post, Oswego East

Local focusFabulous frosh Wrenn is the only local individual qualifier, but it's no fluke she made it to state. The freshman has been solid all season as the Huskies' top performer. "We're all very excited to see Emma qualify," said Hersey coach Julie Arias. "Going into the season, we knew she would bring a lot of bowling experience and knowledge to our team, but we were not expecting her to improve so much over such a short time." Wrenn enjoyed a spectacular Mid-Suburban League season, finishing with an average of 190.51, good for sixth overall in conference. "I'm very excited (about this weekend)," said the frosh. "I've already got the jitters. Being a freshman, I never would have seen this coming." Wrenn, who also fired the fifth-best series in the MSL this year (673), said focusing on team goals on the Zion-Benton sectional tournament helped her calm her nerves, and she also received some timely advice from Elk Grove senior star Kayleigh Duff after she qualified. "Kayleigh told me that pressure comes from within, so when I'm bowling at state I should try to stay relaxed and calm, and focus on making my spares. That helped me a lot and I really appreciated her telling me that. I have to remember that I've got three more years to go, and I just have to be happy to have made it this year." Arias, for one, has no doubt that Wrenn will be successful at Rockford. "Emma has grown a lot as a bowler and a person," said Arias. "She's truly a team player and her hard work has definitely paid off."

Leyden senior Nicole Lassin has been a consistent stalwart on the Eagles varsity team since she was a freshman. She and her teammates really stepped it up this season at their own hosted sectional tourney by posting a 6,032 to win and advance to state. It'll be their fourth straight trip to Rockford. "As a freshman," said the senior, "I remember being there with all the great teams and wondering, 'What about us?' I was nervous then, but now that I'm a senior, this year I'm pumped. We want to show what we can do in front of the big crowd." Lassin's 1,153 series at sectionals gave a big boost to the Eagles qualification. "As a team," said Lassin, "we've bonded not only while we're bowling but also outside of school. We're very close, we've got a lot of experience, and we want to leave our mark for our school this year (at Rockford). Our coach (Chris Aylward) is playing it cool, but I know once we get down there he's going to tell us to focus, get our minds in the game and take it one frame at a time. We can't get ahead of ourselves."

Brandy Hoglund is one of the senior leaders for Hoffman Estates. She excelled at the Mid-Suburban League meet by posting a team-best mark of 1,167 which included a 240 game and helped lead the Hawks to the MSL title. "In the beginning of the year," said Hoglund, "I was a little apprehensive because I knew we were going into the season with some younger players. But once I saw them bowl in the first couple of tournaments I knew they had a lot of talent." Hoglund was seventh overall in the MSL (190.21 average) and says she knows what it takes to succeed at the state meet. "It's got to be a team effort," said the senior. "Our goal is to make it to the second day, and I think we'll do that. As I said, we've got a young team, but our freshmen and sophomores play other sports. They've been in pressure situations before so they won't let the pressure get to them (at Cherry Bowl). We're going to treat it as just another tournament, and as long as we pick up our spares we'll be OK." Hawks coach Dan Pfligler couldn't agree more, saying, "This is Brandy's second trip to state. She works very hard to improve her game, she's dedicated and always there to pick up her teammates."

Team profilesLeyden has been one of the top teams in the state for four straight seasons, going to Rockford each year, and no effort exemplifies the Eagles talent more than Reba Hall's 300 game this season at the sectional tourney at Brunswick Zone in River Grove. "The girls have really done some amazing things." said coach Chris Aylward. "Reba and teammate Erika Pimentel have been solid all year, and Ashley Kriston and Nicole Lassin have been coming on strong." Leyden has enjoyed some stellar tournaments this season, rolling a 6,180 at the Fenton Invite, a 6,157 at Regionals and 6,032 at the sectional. Hall (1411) was the individual medalist at Brunswick Zone (1411), while Kriston rolled a 1,152. Now the Eagles will be looking to improve on their seventh-place state effort in 2013 , while Hall has individual title hopes after finishing ninth and third at Rockford the last two seasons. "We know we can be in the mix at state," said Aylward. "There's going to be terrific talent this year, and we hope to perform the way we know we can. These girls have brought nothing but positive attention to our school and they've been the best athletic team we've had for some years now. I would be thrilled to have them have great success this weekend -- they're a great group of young ladies and they've worked hard to get to this point."

Schaumburg followed up a so-so regular season with a so-spectacular postseason campaign, just missing out on taking the top spot at the Conant regional, then winning the Zion Benton sectional to advance to state. The Saxons finished fourth in the MSL but stormed through the playoffs with junior Jessica Halas leading the way. She had the best score at ZB with a 1,329 series. "Jessica had just an incredible performance," said Schaumburg coach Mark Kelly. "She was lined up and dead solid all tournament. We changed her hand position early in the year and ever since then she's been bowling great." The Saxons were led during the year by super soph Sarah Schwind, who was eighth in conference with a 187.36 average. Teammate Shannon Maiers was 14th in the league (181.33 and also fired one of the top games, a 257. Kaitlyn Azevedo rolled a 269 game in league play (tied for 2nd best on the year) while senior Danielle Yohe excelled at sectionals with an 1,138. "The girls have been much better lately at picking up their spares," said Kelly. "As a team we can strike with the best of them, but when the strikes went away, we used to falter because we were not a good spare-shooting team. So in the last few months I would say our greatest improvement has been our spare shooting." Susan Wiederhold (168.64) may also have her chance to contribute. "Our main goal is to make it to Saturday," said Kelly. "I'll be extremely disappointed if we don't, and once we get there I would say we have a great chance to finish in the top six. But it's going to take a tremendous performance to knock Waubonsie off the top spot – we've crossed paths with them in several tournaments this year and as team they just do not roll a bad game."

Hoffman Estates has been on top all season long and it's no wonder with so many talented bowlers on the Hawks squad. Hoffman swept through the MSL with an 11-0 dual mark in winning the conference title, and shot a high game of 1,096 at the ZB sectional to advance to Rockford. The Hawks boasted five bowlers in the top 13 of Mid-Suburban average, led by Sarah Wille, who was third with a 197.67. Will also rolled the top MSL series of the year, a 747, and she'll be ably assisted in Rockford by teammates Melyssa Donovan (5th, 192.05), Hoglund, freshman Amanda Richae (186.58, 12th), and sophomore Jordyn Fera (185, 13th.)

Elk Grove might just boast the best bowler in Illinois in Kayleigh Duff. The senior, who has signed to attend and bowl at Grandview University next season, won the Mid-Suburban League individual championship with a 202.62 average, the only 200-plus mark in the conference. She also owned the league's top game with a 279. Duff shot 1,322 at ZB to boost the Grenadiers to Cherry Bowl, while teammate Brooke Barges was right there with an exemplary 1,261. Barges had a 178.49 average on the MSL season while Allison Peters shot 178.95. Jamie Hicks (176.72) will also be a valuable contributor at Rockford. "We've worked hard all year long," said Grens coach Jason Svehla. "We had a slow start but we've come on strong the past five or six weeks. We took the momentum of conference into regionals where we shot our best scores of the season."

The rest of the field: Alton, Andrew, Collinsville,Freeport, Harlem,Herrin, Joliet West ,Lake Park,Libertyville, Lincoln Way North, Lockport, Metea Valley, Minooka, O'Fallon, Oswego,Resurrection, Rockford Guilford,Waubonsie Valley,York.

Individuals to watch: Julia Bond, Waubonsie Valley; Karla Bowden, Glenbard East; Jordan Newham, Metea Valley; Sarah Littleton, Grayslake North: Sara Deddo, Belvidere.

-- Bill Esbrook

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