Arvia: Andrew’s twin titlists battle without bragging
PHIL ARVIA firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5949 February 19, 2012 7:28PM
Andrew High School's Josh Dory and Ashley Stefanski hug as they congratulate each other after the school's boys and girls state champion bowling teams played each other at Orland Bowl Thursday, February 16, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 21, 2012 8:03AM
Together, the boys and girls state bowling tournaments were historic. What they were not, it seemed to me, was definitive.
Andrew’s boys team placed first Jan. 28. Two weeks later, the girls season ended with Andrew winning the state title — an unprecedented double over the nine previous seasons in which there’d been both a girls and boys tourney.
So we know who the best teams in the state are. But which is the best at Andrew? It’s a question worth pondering — the girls averaged 205.8 per bowler over 12 games at state, which would’ve placed fifth in the boys tourney, not all that far behind the boys’ winning average of 213.7.
I wanted a game. I asked. Thanks to the kids, the coaches and the kind people at Orland Bowl, I got it. The truth? I wanted a war. Didn’t get that.
Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs 39 years ago. None of these kids is older than 18. They didn’t grow up expecting boys to play and girls to cheer, or demur.
“Our girls are good — really good,” senior Josh Dory said before the teams faced off Thursday. “They’re putting up guys numbers. They have every chance to beat us.”
The format? One game. The girls’ top six — they’d drop the low score — against the boys’ top five. Not that the girls were asking for a handicap.
“No,” senior co-captain Jenny Hallas said. “I just don’t want to hurt any feelings”
Six girls bowled in the state meet for Andrew, two splitting time as the team’s fifth bowler. Hallas and fellow captain Ashley Stefanski didn’t want to pick between them, and the boys didn’t make them.
“We’re all friends,” the boys’ Kyle Damon said. “If it’s a rivalry, it’s a sibling rivalry.”
Well, not exactly. The teams are close — most of the bowlers came up in the same youth leagues, they practice side by side at Orland, some of their parents bowl together — so there’s some fraternizing.
“Singly and together, there was a lot of drama this year,” Hallas said, laughing.
There was a long-term couple linking the teams that, somewhere between the two titles, uncoupled.
“They’d have a fight, we’d pick sides, then we’d figure out a way to make up,” Damon said. “It’s just like a family.”
Time to play the family feud.
In the first frame, three of the five boys failed to mark. When was the last time that happened?
“The Vernon Hills Invitational,” Josh Powell, a two-hander who finished fourth individually at state, said. “Three 10-pins.”
The boys rebounded to win that 25-team event. They also came back from 38 pins down heading into the final game at state and won by 169.
Powell said he knew heading into that game the Thunderbolts would take the title. For Dory, a stretch of 13 straight strikes crystalized the belief.
“You realize everything you ever worked for is coming true,” he said. “It’s almost like a motion picture that you’re watching.”
The girls weren’t afforded that particular out-of-body experience. They won by 22 pins over Minooka, which beat them by 363 at sectionals, and weren’t sure of the results until the math was done.
“Our coach came up and told us,” sophomore Ashley Sparrey said. “We all just bawled our eyes out.”
On that count, apparently, the boys and girls differed little.
“The boys?” said Nicole Zopf, one of several players on each team to attend the other’s state tourney. “They were hard-core criers.”
Nothing about Thursday’s effort was hard-core. It was relaxed, probably too much so to get the best from either team.
The boys struggled early. There was some grousing about the approach (tough sliding) and the lanes (too dry). Boys will be boys.
“We put more energy into it, more power,” Kyle Krol, one of two juniors among the boys’ first five, said. “We get more revolutions on the ball. We’re hooking the lanes a little more.
“It’s more mental for us. If we maintain our focus, we’ll be OK.”
It took a while. Sparrey opened with five straight strikes, and the girls, near as anyone could tell, were up most of the way — though the lead was down to about 15 pins through seven frames.
But the boys got hot — throwing nine strikes in a stretch of 10 frames late — and won by 50. Powell (212), Damon (162), Justin Finnen (196), Krol (216) and Dory (209) gave them 995. The girls totaled 945 behind Hallas (171), Stephanie Garuckas (173), Sparrey (234), Zopf (186) and Stefanski (181). They tossed out Cassie Boat’s 150.
Nobody cried. There have been too many smiles lately for that.
“I feel like a celebrity,” Hallas said.
“People never knew I was on the bowling team,” Damon said. “Everyone knows now.”
That’s because everyone knows who the champs are among these two teams.
Both of them.