For a second consecutive year, the girls bowling team at Westerville Central High School came up just short of reaching the state tournament last season.

For a second consecutive year, the girls bowling team at Westerville Central High School came up just short of reaching the state tournament last season.

That entire team has returned, but entering the season coach Julie Wells still wasn't sure how that team, which still is fairly young, would stack up on the state level. The Warhawks didn't waste much time giving Wells an answer, finishing sixth Dec. 6 at the Kick-Off Tournament, which features most of the state's top teams.

"All we wanted to do was make the cut (top 16)," Wells said. "We were third at the cut and we ended up sixth. That was a great start."

Central was in a "building situation," according to Wells, when she arrived before the 2006-07 season. In the two years since then, the Warhawks have been able to increase their numbers and raise the expectations for the program. Last year, the Warhawks finished fourth at district with a 3,993, just behind Pleasant (4,023) for the third state-qualifying spot. Westerville South won the title with a 4,132.

Central made another statement Dec. 16, beating South 2,110-2,062. Central is 5-0 overall and in the Central Ohio Conference-North Division. Wells said in addition to reaching state for the first time, the Warhawks also have their sights on winning a league title for the first time.

The Warhawks have four of the five starting spots solidified. Senior Vicki Hookman, sophomore Melissa Klodnick, junior Ashley Grega and freshman Mary Wells have started the entire season, with Wells leading the team with an average just more than 200. Grega is averaging about 185, Klodnick is about 180 and Hookman is about 175.

Sophomore Paige Trein, junior Kassie Hammerschmidt and junior Carrie Russell are the top candidates for the final starting spot, although Wells has tried out some freshman from the junior varsity as well.

•The North girls team should be in position to end its drought at the state tournament.

Neither the boys or girls teams at North have reached that level since both made it in the 2002-03 season. For second-year coach Dean Dabe, the whole season is geared toward the end of the season.

"That's pretty much our main goal right now," Dabe said. "Not that we're overlooking the sectional or (district) tournament, but the state tournament is our main focus."

Last year, the Warriors finished sixth at the district, rolling a 3,963 as third-place Pleasant took the final state-qualifying spot with a 4,023.

The Warriors lost two graduates, but their starting lineup all has some experience. Seniors Kate Ruegsegger and Lauren Swihart started consistently last season along with junior Christy Malys. Senior Kristin Anderson and junior Allison Davis rotated in. At the sectional, where the Warriors finished second (2,992) behind South (3,041), Anderson was the Warriors' top finisher, taking 10th with a 489.

•Last season, the South girls maintained their place among the state's best despite losing their three top bowlers from the year before.

Once again, South will need to replace its top bowler, and third-year coach Jamie West said he believes his team can return to an elite level, but it might take some time.

"We've got several new players on the boys and girls teams that are starting to fit in, learning the routines," West said. "By tournament time, I'm hoping we'll be as prepared as we usually are."

The Wildcats finished 13th in the state last season, bowling a 2,462 during the qualifying round. Their top finisher, graduate Laura Moberly, rolled a 580 to finish 22nd. South advanced to state by winning the district tournament with a 4,132, beating out second-place Buckeye Valley (4,105).

South was ninth at the Kick-Off Tournament and is 5-1 overall and in the league.

This year's team is led by two third-year starters, juniors Jennifer West and Stephanie Tumblison. West was 50th at state last year (511) and is averaging about 180 this season. Tumblison was 71st at state (483) but is averaging around 185 so far this year.

Freshmen Brittany Billon and Jessica Shambaugh and sophomore Taylor Pannell have filled the final three spots in the starting lineup, although seniors Kristin Ellis and Jordan Morlan have seen some action. Ellis and Morlan played much of the season on varsity last year. Pannell is new to the team.

•The South boys team is looking to rebound from a disappointing finish last season, and it appears that it is on the right track.

The Wildcats, who were 12th at district last season with a 4,601, did not manage to reach the cut at the Kick-Off Tournament, but they beat Central 2,404-2,316 on Dec. 16. The Wildcats are 4-2 overall and in the league.

"Hopefully that will be a springboard for the rest of the season," West said

The Wildcats reached the state tournament in 2007 and West said that getting back there is one of the goals. Three of their starters are in either their third or fourth season on the varsity, and West said his team also has depth, with all his bowlers averaging between 180 and 195.

Seniors Chris Billon, Justin Latham and Van Foster and junior Michael Della Flora return from last year's starting lineup. Freshman Tyler Chaney typically has filled the final starting spot, with seniors Will Otworth and Jacob Sands as the reserves.

•The Central boys team is coming off its best season but must replace its top two bowlers from last year.

The Warhawks finished eighth in the state last season, losing in five games to eventual champion Riverside Stebbins in the quarterfinal. The Warhawks had rolled a 2,924 in the qualifying round to grab the eighth spot to the elimination tournament.

Among the graduates from that team was Jay Foote, who finished second in the state individually with a 715 series, behind only Urbana's Brice Ream (763). They also must replace graduate Ronnie Lapping, who was 50th (577).

The Warhawks are 5-1 overall and in the league. They also finished seventh at the Kick-Off Tournament.

"We've brought along some younger players who are coming along very well," said Wells, who is assisted on the boys side by Jeff Robinson. "We are looking to have a very good season with out boys varsity."

Juniors Ryan Markin and Zeke Bayt and sophomore Jamie Robinson return from last season's starting lineup and are all averaging around 210 so far. The final two spots have been filled by some combination of seniors Kenny Cabeen and R.J. Mardis, juniors Jordan Kennell and Matt Ritter and freshman Shaun Ritter. All except for Shaun Ritter saw varsity action last year.

•The North boys team also is expecting a much deeper postseason run.

Last season, partly because they had to juggle the lineup late in the season because of academic troubles, the Warriors just missed qualifying to the district. At sectional, the Warriors were 10th with a 3,442 as Whitehall took the ninth qualifying spot with a 3,551.

With the entire lineup back and eligible, North has gotten off to a strong start at 6-1 overall and in the league.

"We've got real high expectations to at least go to the state tournament," Dabe said.

The top two bowlers thus far have been senior Dylan Ulry and junior Justin Hanley. Both started last year and are averaging around 190.

The other three starting spots have been filled by seniors Bob Schumacher and Aaron Capel and freshman Cody LaRochelle. Schumacher and Capel both started last season, and they are averaging about 170, along with LaRochelle. Junior Mike Corian has also seen action regularly as well.

At a glance

CENTRAL

•Coach: Julie Wells, third season

•Next match: Jan. 4 at Ohio State Tournament

•Key bowlers: Boys -- Zeke Bayt, Ryan Markin and Jamie Robinson; Girls -- Ashley Grega, Vicki Hookman, Melissa Klodnick and Mary Wells

NORTH

•Coach: Dean Dabe, second season

•Next match: Tuesday at Capri Lanes vs. Pleasant

•Key bowlers: Boys -- Justin Hanley and Dylan Ulry; Girls -- Christy Malys, Kate Ruegsegger and Lauren Swihart

SOUTH

•Coach: Jamie West, third season

•Next match: Jan. 5 at HP Lanes vs. Brookhaven

•Key bowlers: Boys -- Chris Billon, Van Foster and Justin Latham; Girls -- Stephanie Tumblison and Jennifer West