Biz Brehm was the undisputed leader of the Olentangy High School girls bowling team last season, as the 2012 graduate led the Braves with a 180 game average.
Second-year coach Jim Brehm said he doesn't have anyone capable of matching his daughter's scoring average, but he's pleased with how much his returnees have improved from last season when the Braves finished 13-12 overall.
"The difference from last year to this year is a lot of the time we would win matches on the strength of one or two bowlers, and this year we have a solid team where no girl has rolled less than a 100," coach Brehm said. "That was not always the case last year."
Olentangy lost to Gahanna 2,088-1,675 on Dec. 17 to drop to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North Division.
The Braves are 1-0 in the OCC-Capital Division, having edged Liberty 1,513-1,505 on Dec. 4.
Olentangy lost to Westerville Central 1,792-1,662 on Dec. 5 and Westerville South 1,790-1,585 on Dec. 12 in other COHSBC-North matches and lost to Buckeye Valley 1,811-1,766 on Nov. 28 and Delaware 1,919-1,758 on Dec. 11 in non-league matches.
The Braves returned three starters in senior captain Blair Bishop, junior captain Kaitlyn Kelley and sophomore Emily Brehm.
Last season, Kelley had a 144 game average and Emily Brehm had a 138 average.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Hayley Immel, Samantha Rinehart, Stephanie Sturms and Lizzie Wiesenstein and freshman Abby Matias.
"The strength of this team is the enthusiasm of the girls and the closeness that they seem to have," coach Brehm said. "They root for each other and that has to be my favorite quality in any team in my 28 years of coaching, regardless of the sport. Once we improve our Baker scores, our record will improve."
Last season, Olentangy rolled a 1,758 to win the Olentangy Classic ahead of Liberty (1,722) and Orange (1,211) and placed third (3-2) in the OCC-Capital, behind Hilliard Bradley (5-0) and Liberty (4-1) and ahead of Orange (2-3), Hilliard Darby (1-4) and Hilliard Davidson (0-5).
The Braves were not in the COHSBC-North a year ago.
Olentangy finished seventh (2,926) in the 22-team sectional tournament last sea- son at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl behind champion Briggs (3,494). The Braves then finished 16th (2,904) in the 18-team district tournament at HP Lanes behind champion Westerville Central (3,603).
"I think of the new bowlers, Abby was the only one who had her own ball coming in," coach Brehm said. "But the girls are improving every week and are rolling 1,600-1,700 on a regular basis now with Kaitlyn, Emily and Blair leading the way.
"As we grow in experience, I believe we have a chance to contend (for) the state tournament and win the Olentangy (Classic). I'd like to see the girls hit 2,000 before the season is over."
Patriots split first six matches
Liberty defeated Worthington Kilbourne 1,615-1,359 on Dec. 20 to improve to 3-3 overall and 3-2 in the COHSBC-North.
The Patriots are 2-1 in the OCC-Capital. After losing to Olentangy in their opener, they beat Bradley 1,590-1,428 on Dec. 6 and Davidson 1,708-1,350 on Dec. 18.
Liberty lost to Ready 1,819-1,537 on Dec. 12 in a non-league match and lost to Westerville North 1,631-1,560 in a COHSBC-North match Dec. 13.
The Patriots returned seniors Stephanie Capretta, Leila Ishtayeh and Samantha Taylor and sophomore Nicole Masajlo.
Also on the team are sophomores Courtney Farkas and Carly Schoonover and freshmen Alexia Emigh, Shannon Kelly and Sydney Paris.
"As far as the varsity, I am looking forward to getting them ready to compete in the sectional and district tournament," seventh-year coach Linda Ridolfo said. "So far we have had some good, close matches. Having a junior varsity team is helpful because I can move bowlers between the two and give everyone a chance to compete and get more experience."
Last season, Liberty finished 9-9 overall, placed fourth (6-4) in the 11-team COHSBC-North behind champion Westerville Central (10-0) and was the OCC-Capital runner-up (4-1) to Bradley (5-0).
The Patriots tied Buckeye Valley (2,867) for eighth in the sectional a year ago at Columbus Western Bowl to advance to district, where they finished 18th (2,719).
"We've picked up some good freshmen, so we're probably about the same caliber strength-wise as we were last year," Ridolfo said.
Pioneers facing rebuilding year
Orange lost to Ready 1,523-1,261 on Dec. 18 to drop to 0-3 overall.
The Pioneers are 0-2 in the COHSBC-North, having lost to Gahanna 1,720-1,259 on Dec. 12 and Westerville South 1,778-1,370 on Dec. 17. They begin their OCC-Capital schedule Thursday, Jan. 3, against Liberty at Sequoia Pro Bowl.
Orange returned two starters in sophomores Dejahne Stroud and Hannah Sutherland.
Last season, Stroud had a 106 game average and Sutherland had a 103 average.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Kelsey Krumm, Claire Morgan and Jessica Torkar.
The Pioneers' top three scorers from a year ago did not return, as Rachel Bartram (175) graduated and Paige Wolfenberger (111) and Courtney Quinn (109) decided not to play their senior seasons.
"We have three girls who started bowling this year and they're trying to get better while they have some fun," first-year coach John Sheets said.
Last season, Orange finished 4-13 overall, placed eighth (3-7) in the COHSBC-North and placed fourth (2-3) in the OCC-Capital.
The Pioneers finished 16th (2,463) in the sectional a year ago at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl, as Bartram finished 13th with a 495 series to qualify for district. Bartram placed 30th (478) at district.
"This is a rebuilding season for our girls team because some of our more experienced bowlers didn't come back," Sheets said.