A year ago, the Lansing High Lions’ bowling teams entered the campaign with a lot of realistic high hopes.
Those dreams came crashing down when the boys and girls did only finished with disappointing 11th-place finishes when they had entertained hopes for team trophies.
The Lions return this winter with a much more gritty attitude and a maturity that comes with disappointment and an excitement that they still have at least one more chance to right those wrongs.
Head coach Martha Bredehoeft knows where her bread is buttered heading into the new season – which begins Tuesday – as she can count on a number of strong veterans.
“We have strong teams for both boys and girls,” the coach said. “We have a lot of experience on the boys team. We have returning bowlers Cody VanderStaay, Tyler Arnold, Hayden Hurley, Dante Hernandez and Dakota Sill.
“(For the girls) as last year’s regional champs and a state performance less than we wanted, our goal is to get to state again and bowl well there. Getting there is not the end goal. The girls’ team has been a favorite over many years in the region and I expect nothing less with the senior year for Lacey Angello and Kyah Surritte as a new student.”
The girls will need to find a way to get past the hump of their own postseason shakiness to bring home a top Class 5A finish.
“Last year’s happenings at state are going to give us that drive to make that push this year,” said Angello, who has been the team’s top bowler for three years. “I think we were kind of young and the nerves kind of got to them, which hadn’t been there before.
“We have a couple of new girls and we of course gained Kyah. … It’s a mix of things going on, but I feel the relationship we will have by the time of state will be just fine. I don’t really focus on what goes on at practice, but I really hope people aren’t here to just have fun. We want to win state and do good. You definitely have more fun when you win.”
Angello realizes that bowling season will be the final chapter of her prep sports career as she heads to the University of Kansas to play for the Jayhawks’ volleyball team next fall.
It could be interesting considering her three elite-level seasons and knowing she has only one more shot at a state medal.
“It’s kind of unreal at this point,” Angello said. “I am kind of like holding on to it, but I also want to do the best I can regardless of how the team does. I want to make everything count. … I want to place at state as an individual and of course, I want the girls to go.”
The Lansing boys also will have a similar motivation after falling short of expectations.
“I feel like a lot of people are looking for a redemption season, especially Dante, since it is his last year,” VanderStaay said. “I feel we will be better this year, because it’s the same squad and we have added a better player. We are more experienced, and we know what to expect.
“(Last year) we stopped caring and didn’t try as hard as we could of and we weren’t prepared for what we were up against (in the postseason). Maybe the pressure and the way people were talking it up and making it seem really hard, we got into our own heads.”
The boys hope that all things go right for them in 2018 and if they do, the team could be a legitimate state team.
“I think we will go back to state because most of the teams who challenged us last year lost most of their teams so it’s not getting to state that will be the problem, it is performing at state because the lane conditions are tougher,” VanderStaay said. “I think we might be ahead of ourselves, but I hope that everyone still has the mindset that everything is still going to be challenging and we should do our best.
“A lot of our guys want to be the best and better than the next guy. I feel like a lot of them will hopefully have a different mindset than last year.”
Can the Lions shake off the doldrums that tend to afflict them when the postseason comes knocking and against fields that continue to improve in depth?
“How will we measure up against the state?” Bredehoeft said. “We look forward to the challenge and will work toward a better outcome. … To be a successful bowler or succeed in any sport you need the commitment to work at it outside of the season.”