Redemption alley: Near misses, coming short in 2016 drives these Lion bowlers

A year ago in the prep bowling preseason, the Lansing Lions believed they had what it took to make a serious run in both the boys’ and girls’ competitions and make the state finals.

The girls did make it, but then felt a bit flat, while the boys missed out by one ball and were left to rue missed opportunities.

Now, as both programs return to Crown Lanes to prepare for the new campaign, both teams are burning with the realization of near misses and a desire for a reboot of those same expectations.

“We definitely have some new guys coming out so the team is definitely going to grow,” senior Jonathan Coates said. “I do have some pretty high hopes for all of us and I do believe we have a good chance at regionals. Our returning guys are coming back better than ever.

“It was kind of heartbreaker (not making state), but this year I think we have a better chance and that we are going to be very competitive.”

For some Lions, the team’s miss was a learning lesson that they had the ability, but they have to do more.

“Missing state, and with being one of the alternates, especially since we missed by one spare,” junior Dante Hernandez said. “It’s not just one person, every member of the team could have contributed to it. It shot down everyone’s happiness and it was a big upset for the varsity members that were competing. They really wanted to go to state. I think for the returning guys that watched them compete it still gives them a lot of hope and something to believe in.

“We put a lot of time in last year and practiced every day, but this year is going to be difficult since we only practice certain days. At least we are getting quality at practice.”

That change in practice protocol was a decision made by Lansing head coach Martha Bredehoeft, who decided to give the teams more individual time to learn the sport and not get weighed down by any potential distractions. The teams will alternate practice days and the coach feels that there should be no loss of rhythm that would unduly affect them.

“With a smaller group, I can get more work out of them than I can with twice as many kids here and I don’t feel like we’ve accomplished a lot,” Bredehoeft said. “We get a lot more done and a lot more practice time.”

The bowlers are adjusting to the new practicing approach.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of our guys have been more focused,” Coates said. “There has been a lot more competition and with the fewer lanes, you can see who you are up against and see who your competition is and makes you want to strive to be better.

“Hopefully we can try to pull together. Individually, we have three of four guys that are really good. The other guys will have to fight for the other spots on the varsity. We are getting better, we just need to focus on spare shooting and trying to work on targeting so we can hit strikes more.”

“The only reason I like it is I think the girls are focused on bowling in general and doing better and not doing better to impress the boys,” senior Breanna Coffer said. “It’s been a problem … with players dating on the team and then they break up and it creates tension … it distracts.”

The girls’ team finished seventh at the Class 5A finals a year ago, but they admit they wanted more and that has burned them as they drive forward this preseason.

“I feel like the results of last year’s state tournament is pushing us to work harder this year,” junior Lacey Angello said. “Honestly? It wasn’t even the lanes, I feel like it was the same way when we went my freshman year, but more that our nerves kicked in. It is overwhelming for some people. It was just the title of ‘This is state and let’s go.’”

Coffer added that nerves and a lack of team unity added to their miss last year at state.

“We weren’t blending too well. … I felt like we were all in our little groups together and working as pairs instead of as a team,” Coffer said. “It felt at times that we were going in different directions.” 

So what is different this year?

Angello has mixed feelings on the new practice schedule, but she admits winning is the ultimate goal.

“I feel that it is beneficial in a way that we can focus, but I feel like I am on the bowling team, not the girls’ bowling team, we are a bowling team,” Angello said. “Leavenworth practices together and we should practice together. I don’t even know who the boys are?

“I feel like it has potential (to bring the girls team together). It is more important to work with your team and build good connections in hopes of a winning a state tournament. We are going to look back with the results from state and realize it’s because of (the way they practiced). Winning is better than social aspects.”

How does the coach feel her teams will do this year?

“The boys had some losses with seniors and some people who decided not to come out this year, but we’ll be there,” Bredehoeft said. “The girls? I am always confident in the girls.”

This year, the state finals in Wichita will be handled differently by the state.

“It’s tough when you get to Wichita when kids have been practicing on the shot and the condition and we don’t have any opportunity to do that,” Bredehoeft said. “This year they changed that. The shot will be a secret and nobody will know what it is going in and so everyone one will have an even shot. There are three different patterns they can put out that day and it will be more fair for everybody, so we are looking forward to that.”

Twitter: @LVTSportsGuy