It didn't take long for first-year Olentangy Orange High School bowling coach John Sheets to realize his boys team had the talent to put together a successful season.
The Pioneers went on to finish 10-5 overall, win a share of their first OCC-Capital Division title and advance to the district tournament for the second time.
"I knew our boys had what it took to have our best year ever, and they got the job done," Sheets said. "Our boys progressively got better and hit their stride toward the end of the season, which is exactly what we were hoping for."
Orange finished sixth in the 15-team Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North Division at 8-5, behind co-champions Jonathan Alder (12-2) and Westerville South (12-2).
The Pioneers went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital to tie Hilliard Davidson for first, ahead of Olentangy (3-2), Hilliard Darby (2-3), Hilliard Bradley (2-3) and Olentangy Liberty (0-5).
"Winning our first OCC title was a big highlight," Sheets said. "We tied with Davidson but we beat them (2,131-2,080 on Jan. 28), so we really do feel like we earned it."
Orange placed fourth (3,698) in the 30-team sectional Feb. 16 at Columbus Western Bowl behind champion Newark (4,030), with senior Daniel Vandewater (636 series) leading the way.
The top nine teams and top nine individuals not on a qualifying team qualified for the district tournament.
The Pioneers finished 14th (3,548) of 18 teams at district Feb. 22 at HP Lanes behind state-qualifiers Newark (3,935), Whitehall (3,902) and Westerville Central (3,895). Senior Garrett Moore tied for 25th (560) of 117 competitors to lead the Pioneers but did not secure any of the three individual state-qualifying berths.
"Our boys bowled well at (sectional), but they folded up at district and accepted that they were going to stay there," Sheets said.
In COHSBC-North matches, Vandewater had a team-high 197.3 game average, followed by sophomore Tyler Vandewater (184.9), Moore (184.4), sophomore Ben Kunz (175.7), senior Nick Sansone (165.5) and sophomore Stephen Spezzano (151.3).
"Next year will be a rebuilding year because we're losing three really good seniors," Sheets said.
The girls team finished 2-11 overall, placed 12th (2-8) in the 13-team COHSBC-North behind champion Westerville Central (12-0) and placed sixth (1-4) in the OCC-Capital behind Bradley (4-1), Liberty (3-2), Davidson (3-2), Darby (2-3) and Olentangy (2-3).
Orange placed 17th (2,276) in the 25-team sectional Feb. 15 at Columbus Western Bowl behind champion Briggs (3,757), as sophomore Djahne Stroud finished 21st (456) and qualified for district as an individual for the first time.
Stroud placed 49th (448) of 118 competitors at district Feb. 23 at HP Lanes.
In COHSBC-North matches, Stroud had a team-high 131.7 average, followed by sophomores Claire Morgan (123.2), Hannah Sutherland (110.9), Kelsey Krumm (93.7) and Jessica Torkar (91.5).
"We're not losing any seniors, and Djahne Stroud and Kelsey Krumm are real good bowlers who are coming back," Sheets said. "If we can add a couple more girls to our team, we could be much better next year."
Olentangy boys reached district
The Olentangy boys team finished 11-10 overall and placed third (3-2) in the OCC-Capital and seventh (8-6) in the COHSBC-North.
The Braves finished eighth (3,558) in the sectional at Columbus Western Bowl, with freshman Andrew Foust rolling a team-high 562. They then placed ninth (3,624) at district, with Foust (52nd, 511) leading the way.
Sophomore Brandon Bice finished with a team-high 188 average, followed by sophomore Jordan Ustaszewski (182), junior Matt Walker (172), Foust (171), freshman Dominic Spain (169), sophomore Patrick Balling (168), senior Daulton Rife Harter (165) and junior Jon Jansen (161).
"We kept 15 boys, all of whom are capable of shooting a 200 at any time," coach Jim Brehm said. "We lacked consistency and maturity at times, but that is to be expected when you are fielding such a young team.
"We are losing three boys to graduation, (but) honestly, the sky is the limit for the boys next year. It depends on consistency and how much they want it and work at it."
The girls team finished 7-11 overall, tied for fourth (2-3) in the OCC-Capital and placed seventh (5-6) in the COHSBC-North.
The Braves placed sixth (2,742) in the sectional at Columbus Western Bowl, with junior Kaitlyn Kelley rolling a team-high 419. They then finished 13th (2,832) of 18 teams at district behind state-qualifiers Cardington (3,682), Briggs (3,614) and Lancaster (3,318), with junior Stephanie Sturms (28th, 477) leading the way.
Kelley had a team-best 160 average, followed by sophomore Emily Brehm (148), junior Samantha Rinehart (138), senior Blair Bishop (129), Sturms (123), freshman Abby Matias (122) and junior Lizzie Wiesenstein (122).
"Everybody is coming back with the exception of Blair," coach Brehm said. "We will miss her leadership for sure. She was a lot of fun and kept the girls loose. Next year has the potential to be very special. We were fortunate to have five first-ever bowlers who picked it up rather quickly and with good attitudes."
Liberty teams each had district qualifier
The Liberty boys team finished 5-13 overall and placed sixth (0-5) in the OCC-Capital and 13th (4-10) in the COHSBC-North.
The Patriots placed 11th (3,311) in the Columbus Western Bowl sectional, with sophomore Mike Shiner finishing fourth (636) to qualify for district. At district, Shiner placed 15th (585).
"Everyone improved steadily from the beginning to the end of the season," Shiner said. "I was pretty excited about the way I bowled at sectional, but I was hoping for more at district."
In COHSBC-North matches, Shiner had a team-best 205.7 average, followed by junior David Valz (170.6), junior Austin Limbert (154.3), senior Drew Crea (150.5), sophomore Spencer Dirrig (148.9), sophomore Ryan Rabinowitz (140.0) and senior Max Gunn (139.9).
"We're losing two good seniors, but based on who we have coming back, I think we'll take a step forward from here and be better next year," Shiner said.
The girls team went 6-9 overall, tied Davidson for second (3-2) in the OCC-Capital and finished eighth (5-7) in the COHSBC-North.
The Patriots did not have enough competitors for a team score at sectional, but senior Stephanie Capretta rolled a 446 to qualify for district, where she finished 66th (415).
In COHSBC-North matches, senior Samantha Taylor had a team-high 147.7 average, followed by Capretta (141.8), sophomore Nicole Masajlo (137.5), sophomore Courtney Farkas (129.7), senior Leila Ishtayeh (128.4) and sophomore Carly Schoonover (125.1).
"We had a lot of new girls who hadn't bowled before, so the rest of us did our best to help them out," Masajlo said. "Our seniors really improved their averages and Stephanie making it to district was a big highlight for our team.
"We'll miss our seniors, but our younger girls did well this season and we feel good about our future."