LVHS teams have new lineups with tried-and-true expectations

A year removed from one of the best bowling seasons in the program’s history, the Leavenworth Pioneers face a new challenge in 2018 in hopes of replicating the previous year’s success.

They will also be entering that new journey with a first-year head coach at the helm in Nathan Troyer.

Troyer takes over for Shad Langfoss, who gave up the post after last year’s stunning state run by his boys (fifth place at the Class 5-1A state finals) and girls’ (ninth place).

The new boss has some talent on hand, but a bevy of last year’s major point scorers graduated, so now the momentum created will hopefully push the newcomers to aspire to those heights.

Now the former assistant is ready to take the Pioneers to task to keep the team among the better in the state.

“Taking over was a pretty smooth transition,” Troyer said.

Leading the girls will be Lena Humble, the program’s top returning bowler, Margaret Collins and Kylie West, while the boys will be spearheaded by Devin Butzin, D’Marco Rabe, Andrew Meinert and Kobie Kensinger.

Humble was a part of the 2017 team that faced challenges after losing a number of top bowlers and overcame that obstacle by making the state run.

The precedent is now set, but can it happen again?

“We just need a lot of motivation and we need to work as a team … we need to bring positive energy,” Humble said. “(The new-look roster) has made me (worried) for this year, because I am like, ‘Am I going to make it to state this year?’ I always have a little self doubt with everything I do. It’s made it a little bit stressful in wanting to get everyone to state. I am the one carrying the team, the team captain and I am in charge. I feel it’s my responsibility if we don’t make state and I will feel terrible if we don’t.

“(Last year) we built a nice little family for ourselves and I think that’s one of the most important things. Every time we come back, we rely on each other, know each others’ quirks, what we are good at and our strengths and weaknesses. We really need to learn that for this year.”

Troyer knows he can count on Humble, but it’s putting the right pieces around her in place.

“We are going to need some younger girls to step up,” Troyer said. “I feel we might have a few that could.”

The boys will need to replace four top scorers from 2017 and team captain Butzin admits that it will be a tough campaign with so many newcomers having to take up the places of an elite roster.

“My main goal is for us to bond as a team and everyone helps each other to get to state,” Butzin said. “I feel like it’s a lot more stressful because the old guys dumped all the knowledge and now we have to teach the newer people how to do what they did, because obviously it worked for them. Now, we need to do what they said, but with my own twist.

“I feel it’s motivating us to be more of a team and push us even though we have many doubts that we won’t be as good this year, because we lost so many players.”

Despite a new lineup, Troyer sees a lot of potential for this season.

“They are pretty solid with a couple returners and some freshmen bowling better than some of our returners, so we have a good problem on our hands,” Troyer said. “Moving forward, I am pretty stoked about everything.”

Humble believes the team could make a run if all the pieces fall into place.

“If everything falls into place, I believe we can definitely make it to state,” Humble said. “All of them have really great potential, we all just need to work out our kinks. Once we get those all done, I can guarantee we can make it to state.”

Troyer has moderate expectations for Humble and crew.

“With a leader like Lena – she is saying all the right things – if the girls respond to her and the way I think they are going to (they could make a run),” Troyer said. “I hope they can prove me wrong because we are looking at averages on the lower side, so hopefully they can rise to the occasion because we have had some really nice Cinderella stories the past few years. Hopefully we can ride that wave.”

The internal competition within the boys’ lineup offers a nice subplot.

“I feel really good about where our boys are headed,” Troyer said. “We did lose some big leaders. They were great guys and great bowlers, with this group … they really work on figuring out the problem together. It’s been really nice. I miss the guys we had last year – they were great guys, great bowlers – but I am real eager to see what these guys have in store for us.”

Butzin sees the same possibilities for the boys.

“We have really good potential,” Butzin said. “It’s been a battle to keep your place because we have new freshmen that are putting up scores. So with the scorers and the new talent that we have, plus old, and the team bonding stuff we are going to do, we are definitely going to go to state and maybe even win it. With the competitive environment, we are going to want to one-up everybody.

“With all the spots and how coach has been saying our spots are a really tough battle, it will bleed over to whatever we do.”