New Albany Roundup: Eagles boys bowling team thriving on depth
The New Albany boys bowling team’s match against Teays Valley had been postponed, but more than a half dozen Eagles showed up to Gahanna Lanes on the snowy afternoon on Jan. 18 to practice.
“It was kind of uncoordinated because Noble (Conn) and I were just coming out to practice by ourselves,” third-year varsity bowler Elliot Greer said. “We didn’t know Liam (Harper) and a few other (junior varsity) guys and Abby (Phelps of the girls team) would be here. But Noble, Liam and I usually practice at least once a week when we’re not busy with matches. We might not be practicing as much as we should, but we make up for that the rest of the year.”
That the gathering was impromptu didn’t stop them from bowling several games and having a practice at least one Eagle said was typical of many others during the best start in program history.
Led by Greer’s average of 197.1 pins per game through eight matches, New Albany was 7-1 overall and in the COHSBC-A Division before a Jan. 27 match against Marysville and 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye entering a Feb. 1 match against Olentangy Liberty. He was closely followed by Lucas Burnard (191.4), Conn (180.8), Harper (170.5) and Damon Jolly (166.5).
All but Burnard, a sophomore, comprised the top five most of last season with 2020 graduate Grant Kresina, who finished 54th in the Division I state tournament as the first qualifier in program history. Greer, a junior, was 11th at district last year, 38 pins shy of a state berth.
Jolly is a senior. Conn is a junior and Harper is a sophomore.
“I’m more consistent. I’ve been working a lot to get better with strikes. It’s been practice, just working on my game over and over again and making sure what I’m doing is correct,” said Conn, whose 432 series in the team’s only loss entering the week, 2,276-2,224 to Olentangy Orange on Jan. 15, was the Eagles’ best before Jan. 27. “Lucas is having one of the best seasons on the team and he’s only a sophomore. That’s huge for us.”
Despite leading the team in average, Greer said he expects more from himself, namely increased scoring. Greer estimated that he averages 220 in practice.
“I need to not think about (scoring) as much in matches because I definitely don’t bowl as well. I just need to go in there and bowl,” Greer said. “Everybody is doing about as well as I thought they would, which is what we want. Usually in matches, if one guy is not doing well everyone else is doing pretty well. Collectively we’re usually good enough to beat the teams we’re facing even if one guy is having an off day.”
Harper credited his two-handed approach for increasing his average by about 18 pins from a year ago, saying he has more control of the ball.
“I’m confident in where I can place the ball. We all are. We can make adjustments depending on where the ball needs to go,” Harper said. “Our practices have been really good. We’re all in high spirits. We’ve worked hard all year and everybody on this team brings the energy.”
Girls basketball coach Phil Sikorski wasn’t at a loss explaining his team’s 10-2 overall record before playing Gahanna on Jan. 29, but one thing amazed him.
“We seem to be overcoming adversity like crazy,” Sikorski said. “We’ve been down two starters the past couple weeks and a few kids have had to quarantine at lower levels (because of COVID-19). For us to continue the way we have through everything we’ve faced is sort of crazy.”
Junior guard/forward Lauren Wood rolled an ankle during a 51-39 loss to Gahanna on Jan. 12 and missed the next few weeks. Senior forward Haley Dennis underwent season-ending knee surgery Jan. 20.
Several players stepped up in their absence, including senior guard Karli Theis. Theis, who moved in from Delaware before this season, had 12 points in a 79-19 win over Westland on Jan. 20, a game in which Libby Henry, Katie Kaucheck and Tymber Wynn each added 10 points.
Henry is a 5-foot-11 freshman who previously played junior varsity and splits time in the post with Riley McNabb.
Senior guard Brooklyn Gammon, a Tiffin recruit, also recently returned from injury.
New Albany was 5-1 in the OCC-Ohio before the rematch against Gahanna and coming off just its second loss, 51-45 to Dublin Jerome on Jan. 26.
“Our defense has kept us in games,” Sikorski said. “We’ve done a good job against teams that are similar in style to us, but one thing in favor in those games is we have a lot of experience with nine seniors on the roster. It’s paid off for us so far and hopefully it will again.”
Wrestlers cope with
The wrestling team got a breather this week entering the final full month of the regular season, after eight matches from Jan. 21-30.
New Albany was 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio before a Jan. 28 match against Pickerington North in which it sought its fifth win in a week. The Eagles bounced back from a 52-15 loss to Grove City on Jan. 7 that opened OCC-Ohio competition with league wins over Gahanna (36-33 on Jan. 14) and Westland (54-16 on Jan. 21).
“We created the schedule like this for a reason. After we have a stretch of matches, we can take a step back, watch film and study where we’re doing well and where we need to get better,” coach Larry Reichard said. “Without tournaments this season and just wrestling in dual (matches), the big thing is how we prepare. We’re trying to get the best matches we can. We’ll talk to the other team and see where we can compete best or where we might take a loss that we can learn from.”
Michael Roth and Colin Swincicki both were 14-2 to lead New Albany before Jan. 28.