Bowlers often spend entire games looking for their spot – the right board or arrow that sends their well-paced ball flush into the pocket. Sometimes the search goes on for series at a time.
Once in a while, it takes an entire season to truly lock into a line.
Sterling junior Destinee Howard was dialed into her mark at this season's outset. But then it started failing her.
"It kind of stopped working for me, so I moved it inside a little bit more," Howard said.
About a month ago, she went back to that mark and has been crushing ever since, adding nearly 10 pins to her average that currently sits at 191.
Metaphorically, the Golden Warriors as a team spent nearly the entire season trying to get on the same mark.
Near-misses in tournaments evoked bad attitudes. Failing to win either the regular season Northern Illinois Big 12 title or the conference tournament was demoralizing, particularly since the league was down this season. A year ago, Sterling averaged 3,333 pins as a team over a three-game series. This season, a conference team has eclipsed the 3,300 mark just four times, according to Sterling coach Dennis Black.
Last Thursday, the pieces started snapping into place in a methodical victory over United Township at Blackhawk Lanes. Two days later, with a fourth state berth in 5 years hanging in the balance, and the Warriors in a precarious position after two games at the UT Sectional, the Warriors didn't turn on each other.
They instead fought for each other with a 1,003 in Game 3 and a 936.3 average over the three afternoon games.
"I was in shock myself," senior Amber Granzow said. "I was wondering, 'Where did we come from? How did this happen?' "
Howard, who amassed 1,087 pins through five games, threw a split-plagued 139 Game 6.
She broke down into tears.
"I kind of felt like I let the team down," Howard said. "It's Amber's senior year and her last chance to go to state."
Her best friend was moved.
"That means a lot," Granzow said. "I feel the same way, being the anchor. I know I need to pick up my team. When I open or miss something, I feel like I let my whole team down. I understand where she's coming from. That's a lot of pressure."
Shortly after Granzow consoled Howard, new tears flowed – those of joy. Thanks to Howard's four teammates picking her up with 766 pins, a 191.5 average, the Warriors were once again state-bound.
"Destinee had carried us – along with Amber, who'd been very consistent – all through the first five games," Black said. "To the credit of the other four, they picked her up. She'd been holding them up all match long."
The unanswered question is whether the Warriors can bring that sort of mojo to Cherry Bowl Lanes in Rockford this weekend. Lauren Wolf, the pro shop at Blackhawk Lanes, lays down the sectional and state oil patterns for the team to practice on every year.
This year's state pattern is short, with loads of oil on the inside boards and a scant amount on the outside.
Thus, Howard is once again looking for her mark. As Black pointed out, Tuesday's practice would be a great litmus test.
In the fourth frame of her first game, Howard kicked out her right leg like a dancer as her ball crushed the pocket. As she turned, Granzow yelled, "Wha-bam!"
Howard pumped her fist and echoed her best friend's cheer.
By George, she found it.
SVM scouts girls state bowling meet
When: Round 1 – 9:30 a.m. Friday; Round 2 – 1:30 p.m. Friday; Round 3 – 9:30 a.m. Saturday; Round 4 – 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Cherry Bowl Lanes, Rockford
Advancement: Top 12 teams through rounds 1 and 2 advance to Saturday's rounds 3 and 4; top 30 individuals not on those 12 teams also advance
Teams, qualifying scores: Collinsville 6,253, Glenbard East 5,777, Grayslake North 5,206, Harlem 6,076, Hinsdale South 5,267, Hoffman Estates Conant 5,838, Jefferson 6,101, Lake Zurich 5,244, Leyden 5,167, Lockport 6,068, Minooka 5,831, Moline 6,119, Mount Vernon 5,260, Mount Prospect 5,765, Oswego East 6,582, O'Fallon 5,839, Roselle Lake Park 5,481, Salem 5,453, Sandburg 5,491, Schamburg 5,478, St. Ignatius 4,424, Sterling 5,542, Thornton Fractional South 5,401, Waubonsie Valley 6,530
Individuals to watch: Angela Anzalone, Conant fr.; Julie Bond, Waubonsie Valley jr.; Amber Burns, Collinsville sr.; Morgan Flaherty, Lincoln Way West sr.; Jessica Howell, Moline so.; Brigitte Jacobs, Freeport fr.; Mia Pope, Lindblom fr.; Giselle Poss, Oswego East sr.; Nicole Powell, Sandburg sr.; Ashlee Putney, Glenbard East jr.; Abbie Reilly, Alton jr.; Dani Sikorski, Lake Zurich
Sterling bowlers' averages (assigned to Lane 19 for Game 1): Destinee Howard, jr., 191; Amber Granzow, sr., 189; Brandy Behrens, sr., 177; Samantha Lewis, sr., 167; Magan Tintori, so., 165