They’re ready to roll: Literally.
The Waldorf men’s and women’s bowling teams begin their 2017-18 season this weekend, competing at the Mid-States Championships in Wichita, Kan., on Saturday and Sunday, signally the start of a drive toward a third straight trip to Sectionals for the men, and a first berth to Sectionals for the women.
“We’re really excited,” said first-year head coach Tony Manna who was part of the Warriors team who started the Sectionals surge two years ago. “They’ve been looking forward to (this weekend’s opener) for a while now, ever since I announced the schedule.”
And for good reason as the Warriors have been working hard for the past two months in preparation for this weekend.
“I think they’re ready,” Coach Manna said. “I’ve been trying to make some practices really tough so were actually really prepared (this) weekend. A lot of the returners are going to benefit from the structure that I’ve brought.”
Experience will be a key for the Warriors who are led by returning juniors Roger Harford and Kyle Swiderski on the men’s side, and senior Alyssa Knudson and sophomore Olivia Kubis on the women’s side.
Harford averaged 197.881 pins per game last season, Swiderski averaged 191.845, Kubis averaged 173.860, and Knudson averaged 163.408.
While those numbers sound impressive, Swiderski says the team is only getting better.
“We look really good,” the Warriors junior team captain said, “better than I’ve seen the teams before. We’re starting to throw a lot more strikes, and we have a lot better team mentality this year.”
Manna expects all four to be team leaders on a team that – despite seemingly being an individual sport – are working hard as a true team.
“You can’t pass to somebody, you know, but we’re really working together and talking about the lanes and the environment and how everything works, which is going to be key for us,” Swiderski said.
The Warriors coach adds: “Teamwork is going to be a huge success for us. I’ve really tried to instill it within them, and allowed them to talk to each other without me being there so they know what’s going on with the lanes.”
But it goes beyond just talking about the lanes, or what’s going on in a tournament. While Waldorf’s student-athletes will bowl numerous individual games each weekend in competition, they also compete in team “Baker” games with different players bowling different frames in each individual game.
Truly making collegiate bowling a team sport.
While the returning quartet of Harford, Swiderski, Kubis and Knudson will be team leaders, Manna also expects a couple of freshmen – Spencer Armstrong for the men and Rachel Dahlin for the women – to make an impact for the team this season.
Making for very strong teams on both sides.
“I’m really excited,” Kubis said of the Warrior women’s team. “I think we’re going to do great.
“We look a lot better than last year,” the sophomore added. “We’ve been averaging a lot higher, I think we will qualify more and I think we will make Sectionals.”
Sectionals is the big goal for the Waldorf bowlers, an achievement they will work all season towards as the top 80 men’s teams in the collegiate bowling ranks, and top 64 women’s teams, advance to one of four United States Bowling Sectionals.
Conference champions earn an automatic berth, but with no league to compete in, success rides on bowling well each weekend for the Warriors.
But the Warriors are ready to meet that challenge.
“We’d like to get in the top 25, but if we improve on last year – which was 45th or so – I’d be happy,” Swiderski said of the men’s team.
And Coach Manna adds of the Waldorf women: “I’m really hopeful and wishing that they’re going to make sections this year, as well.”