Olentangy High School bowling coach Jim Meta thinks his boys team might have peaked too soon last season.

Olentangy High School bowling coach Jim Meta thinks his boys team might have peaked too soon last season.

The Braves had their sights set on advancing to the district tournament and possibly to state a year ago, but they placed 16th (3,116) of 24 teams in the sectional at Eastland Lanes, well short of a district berth. Delaware (3,693) secured the ninth and final district-qualifying spot, with Westerville Central (4,473) winning the sectional.

That's why Meta isn't too concerned about the boys team's start this season. The Braves, who will face Cardington on Tuesday at Delaware Lanes, lost their first two matches but were 2-2 after pulling out a 2,286-2,283 win over Big Walnut on Dec. 16.

"Last year we started off strong and tailed off at the end," said Meta, whose teams are members of the Mid-Ohio Conference along with Big Walnut, Buckeye Valley, Cardington, Delaware, Galion Northmor, Marion Elgin, Marion Harding, Marion Pleasant and Mount Gilead. "This year we're hoping to start off slow and get stronger as the season goes on. We definitely have the potential (to qualify) for state."

The boys team returns six letterwinners in senior Travis Martindale, juniors Grant Harris, Chris Japikse, John Lindsey and Miles Stabl and sophomore Kyle Oleksin. Also on the team are freshmen Ryan Berkey and Winston Thomas.

The girls team, which dropped to 1-3 with a 1,662-1,643 loss to Big Walnut on Dec. 16, finished 16th (2,276) of 18 teams at sectional last season. The top seven teams advanced to district, with Westerville Central (3,312) winning and Hamilton Township (2,713) securing the final district-qualifying spot.

The girls team returned seven letterwinners in seniors Abby Orsborn and Whitney Weber and sophomores Liz Bice, Sarah Dikeman, Emily Kaelin, Shayna Murphy and Kelsey Wruble, though Bice, Kaelin and Murphy primarily are playing on junior varsity. Also on the team are sophomores Devin DeVore and Shannon Smith and freshman Biz Brehm.

"They're picking it up, they're doing much better," Meta said of the girls team. "The seniors are averaging between 155 and 160. Last year a lot of girls were (scoring) in the 80s and 90s, and this year there's none of that.

"With all the (returnees) we have and the success of the girls team, my expectations (for the program) are a lot higher. My hope is that we get better and better as the season goes on."

Meta sees no reason why both the boys and girls teams won't continue to improve.

"Last year the kids cared (about bowling) but didn't want to learn," he said. "They need to hear what I'm saying. Not that I know everything, but they need to listen and try to become better bowlers. They're doing that this year."

•Liberty coach Linda Ridolfo would like to see both of her teams qualify for district this season after falling short of that goal a year ago.

The girls team placed 10th (2,574) of 18 teams at the sectional at Eastland Lanes last season, finishing 139 pins behind the seventh and final district qualifier, Hamilton Township (2,713). The boys team finished 14th (3,451) of 24 teams at sectional, with Delaware (3,693) securing the ninth and final district-qualifying berth.

"Last year I was disappointed that we didn't make it out of the sectional," said Ridolfo, whose teams are members of the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-North Division. "This year we want to get out of the sectional."

The chances of accomplishing that goal seem very promising for the girls team, which improved to 7-1 with a 1,701-1,586 win over Pickerington North on Dec. 19.

The Patriots' roster is comprised of four returning letterwinners in juniors Emma Goetz and Gina Son and sophomores Christie Paul and Jenna Shiner as well as sophomore Cassie Gammon and freshmen Andrea Cardinali and Amy Spanfill. Shiner was an individual district qualifier last season.

The boys team, which dropped to 4-4 with a 2,136-1,973 loss to Pickerington North on Dec. 19, is made up of five returning letterwinners in senior Chris Cardinali and juniors Evan Deacon, Kolton Flack, Daniel Roth and Jim Swanek as well as juniors Brian Jardine and Dan Telle.

"I just hope that the kids have a good time and maybe finish in the top five (of the COHSBC-North) and get out of the sectional," Ridolfo said. "That's my goal. We're doing pretty well so far. We started out pretty strong."

Liberty, which is in its third varsity season, plays Westerville North on Tuesday at Sawmill Lanes before playing Beechcroft on Wednesday at Sequoia Pro Bowl.

•Orange coach Joel Spitzer has seen firsthand that experience can have a major impact on a first-year program.

Case in point, the girls team has a 4-2 record and the boys team is 0-6. Neither has any returning letterwinners. However, Spitzer is quick to point out that the girls team has three experienced bowlers and the boys team has none.

"I have high hopes and expectations for the girls team," said Spitzer, whose teams are members of the COHSBC-North. "I want to make sure they improve and gain confidence. We have three girls with experience, which gives us something to build on.

"Right now we're focusing on our immediate goal, which is getting our total pin count to 2,000. If we can do that, I think we can meet our goals. I would like to see us make a run in the tournament."

The girls team is made up of juniors Darian Clever, Marissa Lantz, Lauren Maddern, Hannah Pfau and Jessica Redd and sophomores Rachel Bartram, Kaitlin Milburn and Sierra Roof. According to Spitzer, Bartram, Milburn and Roof are experienced bowlers.

Milburn, whose mother, Donna, competed in the sport in college, was overall medalist in five of the Pioneers' six matches.

The boys team is comprised of juniors Paul Burke, Alec Dickman, Peyton Gifford and Zack Roush, sophomore Josh Greene and freshmen Jacob Antoun, Ryan Newell and John Ricci. All eight are first-year bowlers, Spitzer said.

"We're building from scratch," Spitzer said. "They don't have any experience, but every match, every practice, they're getting better."

Orange plays Grandview on Monday at Western Lanes.