STERLING – After a 4-year hiatus, the Golden Warriors are back.
The Sterling girls bowling team will head to the state meet, starting today at Cherry Bowl in Rockford, for the first time since 2013 when Amber Granzow and Destinee Howard led Sterling to 10th place with a 2-day total of 11,142.
Unlike that junior- and senior-laden squad, this year’s team is more youth-oriented, with two freshmen and a sophomore often leading the way, such as at Saturday’s LaSalle-
Peru Sectional when freshman Olivia Zinanni had
the team’s top score of 1,199, and fellow freshman Grace Schultz had the next highest score of 1,182.
Once upon a time, Kyleigh Glazier was the talented newcomer on the Warriors’ roster. She arrived as a freshman for the 2015-16 season, teaming up with then-seniors Mia Ashley and Kayla Miller and juniors Hannah Stoudt and Jaime Riley. Out of that group of upperclassmen, it was Glazier making it through to the sectional, the first of her two sectional trips.
Now the veteran of the team, Glazier is hoping she can help her younger teammates the way her older teammates helped her in years past.
“I feel like just listening to everyone’s advice, for me, was the biggest thing,” Glazier said. “I just tell them to listen and take in whatever they can.”
This year she has often been the second- or third-highest score on her own team, behind Zinanni and sophomore Zoey Paone.
Since that is coming with team success, Glazier is all for it.
“It’s not going as well as I’d hoped, but it’s not really about me personally,” she said. “It’s all of us combined. I’m hoping that I can up my game a little bit this weekend.”
This weekend, the Warriors will see up close the top teams in the state. Back with most of its lineup is defending state champion Harlem, who beat Lockport by 38 pins last year to claim the title. Lockport is back as well.
Sterling’s sectional team score of 5,631 put the Warriors nearly 400 pins behind sectional champion Lincoln-Way West, and teams like O’Fallon and Harlem were putting up even higher totals in other sectionals.
“They need to come out strong like they did at regionals and keep that up all day,” Sterling coach Loren Wolf said of his Warriors. “We faded a bit at sectionals, but we need to keep that energy up all day to have a chance.”
Sterling’s coaching staff has made a few tweaks in the equipment, a different ball for one player, a new wrist brace for another, but the biggest thing to work on heading to state is the mental aspect.
“If we’re going to go on to the second day, which is our goal, we have to focus even more than we have been,” Wolf said. “We’ve improved drastically in the postseason.”
The Warriors have been seeing the positive outcomes that come from positive thoughts.
“If we’re all negative, it’s not going to be good,” Schultz said. “We usually bounce off each other. If one person’s doing good, we usually try to follow along, and that’s what we need.”
That can lead to an electric atmosphere on the lanes, as the Warriors begin cheering for each other and raising the excitement level.
Schultz saw that excitement firsthand during the Rock Island Regional.
“We were doing OK, but I wasn’t doing very good,” she remembers. “One of my teammates bowled a 234, and I was like ‘OK, I can do this.’ We pick each other up, and the next game almost all of us bowled over a 200.”
That led the Warriors to a regional title, and they kept it up the following week with a fourth-place finish at the LaSalle-Peru Sectional last Saturday to clinch a trip to state.
That mental aspect is one Glazier admits she has struggled with in the past.
“It’s really hard for me to move on, and I just get really upset,” Glazier said. “But over the past 2 weeks, I’ve gotten better at it, and just moving on to the next shot.”
Though the Warriors have a tough task at state, the young lineup will get a taste of that level of competition no matter what. And it may not be the last time these bowlers are rolling at that level. Alivia Salmon is a senior set to graduate, but Glazier, Paone, Zinanni and Schultz will be back next season, as will freshman Kylie Bresley, who hasn’t yet been able to crack the loaded Warriors’ lineup.