The Dixon bowlers had a case of the slips in their first game at the state bowling meet Friday at St. Clair Bowl in O'Fallon. And, as the day proceeded, a shot at advancing to Day 2 slowly slipped away.
"Our first game, our guys were having a little bit of an issue," Dixon coach Allen Wickert said. "They were sliding too much. We couldn't figure out what it was."
The Dukes placed 18th out of 24 teams with 5,818 pins, 670 off the lead pace of Minooka and 242 off the top-12 cut.
After opening with a 935 game on Lanes 17 and 18, the Dukes found better traction when they moved. They recovered with a 994 and their high game of the event, a 1,044, to get within 114 pins of the cut at the lunch break.
But the hole was simply dug too deep.
"As soon as we got done with the first game, it was hard to climb out of it," Wickert said. "They just didn't have it today. No matter what we did or what we tried, it didn't work."
The lack of oil on the lanes as the afternoon wore on made it difficult to keep the ball from hooking. Keeping the ball on the right side was trying enough, let alone finding the pocket.
The Dukes opened the afternoon with a 984, but the scores declined with a 967 and an 894.
The top 30 individuals not on the advancing teams also made the cut. Brandon Bonnette, Andrew Hamburg and Connor Allen were within striking distance entering Game 6, but threw a 184, 171 and 142, respectively.
Bonnette's 1,199 six-game series placed him seven spots out of that 30-bowler field. Hamburg was right behind him with a 1,196. Josh Rex surged to three spots behind Hamburg with a 208 final game and a 1,187 series.
"Toward the end of the day, the lanes were so fried that it was a struggle to keep the ball on the right side of the lane," Wickert said. "But the guys did a good job staying in good spirits."
He credited sophomore Joel Spangler for the good vibes.
"Joel's kind of the comic relief out of the group," Wickert said.
With Bonnette, Rex, Hamburg and Allen graduating, Spangler will be one of the cornerstone's of next year's squad. This year's team set a NIB-12 single-dual record and won the NIB-12 meet in come-from-behind fashion.
But Wickert doesn't mince words when he thinks about the future of the sport and the program.
"I've been thinking about next season all season," Wickert said. "I'm kind of concerned, because our numbers are going to be down. I'm hoping two trips to state would be a nice bonus, that guys would want to come out for a successful team."