Girls Bowling: Repeat dreams for Lincoln-Way West’s Flaherty
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media November 19, 2012 6:28PM
Lincoln-Way West High School senior Morgan Flaherty, 17, is the defending state bowling champion as seen at Laraway Lanes Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, at 1009 W. Laraway Rd. in New Lenox. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Andrew: Speaking of repeats, the 2011-12 state champion has the talent and experience to contend again. Seniors Nicole Zopf, Cassie Boat and Stephanie Garuckas are returning starters for the Thunderbolts, who edged Minooka by 22 pins for the program’s first title.
Sandburg: The Eagles return three starters from last season’s state qualifier, led by state runner-up Nicole Powell. Sandburg will look to improve on last year’s third-place finish in the loaded SouthWest Suburban Blue.
Lockport: The Porters aren’t short on motivation after finishing third at sectionals last season, one spot shy of qualifying for state. Bri Zabierek was a state qualifier in 2011-12, while fellow senior Megan Szczepanski was third in the SouthWest Suburban Blue.
Lincoln-Way West: With defending state champion Morgan Flaherty leading the way, the Warriors could add plenty of team success to her individual accomplishments.
Evergreen Park: The Mustangs captured the South Suburban Red with a young team last season and should build on that success.
Others to watch: Bremen, Lincoln-Way North, Morgan Park, Reavis, T.F. North
(In alphabetical order)
Cassie Boat, sr., Andrew: Boat was 61st at state two seasons ago, 25th last season.
Morgan Flaherty, sr., Lincoln-Way West: Can Flaherty join Liz Berg as only back-to-back state champs?
Sarah Klawitter, jr., Evergreen Park: Klawitter captured the South Suburban Red title and advanced to state last season.
Ashley Kouba, jr., Reavis: Kouba, who captured the Hinsdale South Sectional title last season, should be among the area’s top underclassmen.
Nicole Powell, sr., Sandburg: Last season’s state runner-up hopes to turn the tables on good friend Flaherty this time around.
Bri Zabierek, sr., Lockport: Zabierek averaged 216 at last season’s state tournament on her way to a 14th-place finish.
Nicole Zopf, sr., Andrew: Zopf has a ton of big-tournament experience and will be looked upon to lead the defending state champion Thunderbolts.
Updated: December 21, 2012 6:15AM
In the 32 years the IHSA has crowned a girls bowling state champion, only once has there been a back-to-back winner, Rockford East’s Liz Berg in 1998 and ’99.
So Lincoln-Way West senior Morgan Flaherty knows the odds are against her as she embarks on her quest for a repeat.
“I know the chances of winning state again are really slim,” she said. “I know I’m capable of doing it. I just can’t expect to do it.”
Still, Flaherty allows herself moments to dream.
“I was sitting in the gym (recently) and I saw the (state championship) banner and I started thinking ‘I wonder what it would be like to have another one,’ ” she said.
“It would be awesome to win back to back, especially to finish up my senior season strong. Then again, I can’t tell myself that it’s going to happen. I just have to prove myself and show that I can do it again.”
After winning the first state championship in any sport for Lincoln-Way West, Flaherty was thrust into an unfamiliar spotlight.
“I got honored at one of the basketball games and I got a little crystal thing with my name and (state-tournament winning 12-game score of 2,764) on it,” she said. “I’ve got my huge state (banner) on the wall, so it was really nice. I got all the attention but I’m super shy so standing in front of the entire school and stuff, I was proud of what I did but I was really nervous.”
The newfound celebrity hasn’t come with a sense of contentment.
“She wants to be better than everybody,” West coach Scott Jablonski said. “She wants to be better than all the boys. The No. 1 thing about being a good bowler is you’re never good enough. You’ve got to keep working hard. She knows that.”
If more proof of that was needed, consider Flaherty’s plans as the season gets under way.
“I think I’m going to start going back to lessons,” she said. “I just want to make sure I have everything down and not let the little things mess me up. I didn’t bowl that much over the summer, so I just need to get into the swing of things.”
Flaherty hopes for more team success this season. The Warriors finished third at sectionals last winter, one spot shy of qualifying for state.
West figures to have at least three seniors in its starting lineup, with Katie Nork and Morgan Wheeler joining Flaherty.
Jablonski is excited about freshman Jessie Schram, while the fifth starting spot is up for grabs.
“Being a small school, I want us not to be a team that people practice against,” Jablonski said. “I want to beat all these teams. Right now, I have four girls averaging over 170. If I get five over 170, I think we can compete for that state spot.”
Flaherty, meanwhile, will do all she can to repeat. She insists the pressure is minimal. After all, she’s already made history.
“I think about being the first state champ from my school,” she said. “If my kids go to school at West or my friends’ kids do, my banner will be up there and I’ll always have that spot in the school. That’s nice.”