The New Albany High School boys and girls bowling teams feel that improving on their combined five wins from last year will come down to a pin here and a pin there.
"We always harp on picking up our spares because it is so important. He who finds the most spares is the team that's probably going to win," assistant coach Keith Kresina said. "You have to make your spares to win games."
Little wonder, then, that coach Kresina's son, Grant, the most experienced returnee on the boys team, spent much of his offseason working on just that.
"You can never work on spares enough. If you miss a spare, that could (decide) a match," Grant Kresina said. "You have to make sure you are staring down that mark and not taking your eye off of it. As simple as that might seem, if you go up to the lane and you throw a shot and come back and your coach asks if you kept your eye on the mark 100 percent of the time and you don't know if you can answer that question or not, then you know you weren't."
The boys team is 2-1 overall, with the same record in the Central Ohio High School Bowling Conference-A Division and the OCC-Buckeye. The girls are 1-2 overall and in both leagues.
Neither team has another match until Jan. 9, when the Eagles play host to Westerville Central at Gahanna Lanes.
Grant Kresina has the boys team's top series with a 407 in a 2,001-1,605 win over Olentangy Berlin on Dec. 12 at Delaware Lanes, but the team also has benefited from an influx of underclassmen in sophomore Damon Jolly and freshmen Noble Conn and Elliot Greer. Greer had a 319 series in a 1,645-1,606 win over Olentangy Liberty in the team's home opener Dec. 5 at Gahanna Lanes and was averaging 152.7 pins per game through two matches, second behind Kresina (178.4) and ahead of Conn (140.7), senior Ryan Ho (135.3) and Jolly (131.7).
New Albany's first dual match was a 2,384-1,971 loss to Olentangy on Dec. 3 at Delaware Lanes. The Eagles opened Dec. 1 with a 14th-place finish (3,135) in 24-team Red and Blue Classic at HP Lanes as Clayton Northmont won (3,918).
"Elliot and Noble came in here with some decent form and they're getting better," coach Kresina said. "The kids are settling in and finding their groove. If we can keep them heading upward, it will be a fun season."
Kresina has been an assistant to coach Damian Hammond since the program was founded in 2014.
The boys went 1-11 overall and in the COHSBC-A last year, and 0-7 in the OCC-Buckeye. The girls were 4-8 overall and in the COHSBC-A, and 1-6 in the OCC-Buckeye.
Senior Adriane Hammond was averaging 180.0 through two matches to lead the girls team, which has six bowlers. Hammond, the coach's daughter, was ninth in the Division I district tournament last year to fall five spots short of a state berth.
The girls team opened with a 1,818-1,670 loss to Olentangy and fell to Liberty 1,585-1,558 before defeating Berlin 1,928-1,403. The Eagles finished eighth (2,854) of 23 teams in the Red and Blue Classic behind champion Northmont (3,640).
Juniors Chloe Delma and Riley Langdale also return from last season. Rounding out the roster are junior Codey Mockler and freshmen Jada Biller and Abby Phelps.
"We're getting right into working on everything," Adriane Hammond said. "The girls we have aren't new (to the sport) so we can start right away on everything -- working on spares, working on whatever adjustments we need to make to the lanes, things like that. That's a huge help."
Jess Biller, who coached Whitehall's girls team the past 11 seasons, came to the Eagles as an assistant this season as his daughter joined the program.
"We have to have fun first and then we have to learn. Those two things have to happen before we can win. They've jelled pretty quickly," coach Biller said. "You can't practice the pressure within these matches. These matches and tournaments will help all of them down the road."
The rest of the boys team's roster consists of junior Christian Hathaway and sophomores Jacob Cohen and Shane Maguire.
Girls basketball team changing approach
No two games were alike for the girls basketball team through the season's first three weeks, both in terms of results and personnel.
New Albany was 3-3 overall before playing Westerville North on Dec. 18 and fell to 1-2 in the OCC-Capital with a 51-39 loss at Big Walnut on Dec. 14.
The Eagles opened with a 51-49 win at Licking Heights on Nov. 27 before defeating Grandview 55-32 on Nov. 29 and Franklin Heights 73-17 on Dec. 4 in the league opener for both teams.
New Albany fell to Newark 83-21 on Dec. 7 and lost to Berlin 58-41 on Dec. 11.
"This group works hard and they care as much about this team as (the coaches) do, which you don't always get," coach Jeff Blunt said. "Nobody cares about statistics; they care about results and that has shown in our games so far. Newark is a machine. They're going to beat a lot of teams this year."
The win over Licking Heights was costly, as sophomore guard Brooklyn Gammon suffered a knee injury in the second half. Freshman guard Katie Kaucheck earned increased playing time in Gammon's absence and made her first career start against Berlin.
Gammon returned that same night and saw limited playing time.
"We hadn't planned to give Katie much varsity time at all this year, but with the intensity she's brought, we as coaches looked at each other and told ourselves we had to play her," Blunt said. "We've ended up playing four guards more lately. We knew we'd be guard-heavy this year, but we've gone even smaller lately to take advantage of what we have. We've been pressing more, which we have to do.
"When we told the team Katie was going to start (against Berlin), the team applauded. That was pretty cool. That's the type of team we have."
Hockey team off to fast start
Powered by a balanced offense, the hockey team is 7-2-0-3 overall and 2-2 in the Capital Hockey Conference entering a Saturday, Dec. 22, game against Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller Easton.
Brandon Barash's nine goals lead New Albany. Matthew Moellering has seven, Jordan Campbell has six, Victor Appell and Jackson Buss both have five and Zach Blaney and Carson Johnston have four apiece.
Appell and Moellering each scored in a 4-2 loss to Olentangy Orange on Dec. 14. Tucker King made 15 saves.
Barash had three goals and Buss had two in a 9-3 win over Dublin Jerome on Dec. 16.
Dec. 1 -- Red and Blue Classic at HP Lanes
*Dec. 3 -- Olentangy at Delaware Lanes
*Dec. 5 -- Olentangy Liberty at Gahanna Lanes
*Dec. 12 -- Olentangy Berlin at Delaware Lanes
*Jan. 9 -- Westerville Central at Gahanna Lanes
*Jan. 16 -- Delaware at Gahanna Lanes
*Jan. 18 -- Westerville North at Gahanna Lanes
Jan. 19 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Jan. 22 -- Westerville South at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Jan. 25 -- Grandview at Gahanna Lanes
*Jan. 30 -- Marysville at Gahanna Lanes
*Feb. 4 -- Big Walnut at Capri Lanes
*Feb. 5 -- Olentangy Orange at Capri Lanes
Feb. 13 -- Gahanna at Gahanna Lanes
Below are the coming schedules for the New Albany boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Dec. 21 -- At Groveport
*Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Groveport
*Dec. 22 -- Cincinnati Moeller at Chiller Easton
Dec. 28 -- Moeller in Holly-Daze Invitational Tournament at Bowling Green State University
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 21 -- Home vs. Middletown Fenwick
Dec. 20 -- At Dublin Coffman