After slow start, East bowlers get on track with win against Plainfield North

Junior Liam Fitzpatrick aims for a strike on Wednesday night for East. “I feel that the future of our season is bright and I think we have a lot of potential to be even better,” Fitzpatrick said. Photo by Alex Gerald.

The 2019-2020 varsity boys’ bowling season kicked off almost a month ago, with the team trying to replicate the success of last year’s squad that sent two members to sectionals. Unfortunately, this season has gotten off to a much rougher start. The team is currently at a .300 winning percentage, although their most recent match ended in a close win at Plainfield North.

East won game one 958-743 and game two 851-747, but lost in game three 904-966. The final score for the series was 2,713-2,456 in favor of East to take home eight out of the ten available points for the match and varsity winning 8-2.

East won four points for winning games one and two, while Plainfield North won two points for game three. East then won the four remaining points by having the better series. 

Even with the victory at Plainfield North, the team has been through multiple ups and downs throughout the early part of the season.

Senior Isaak Izzi who along with fellow senior Ben Christiansen went to sectionals last year, has realized how much different this season has been compared to last year. 

“So far this season has been an uphill battle in our conference. We have faced several big teams that are going to state this year, and we have stood pin to pin with each of them,” Izzi said.

This year is coach Steve Henning’s first in being head coach of the varsity bowling team.

“The season has been tough.  We’re in one of the strongest conferences in the state.  We’ve been bowling well, but caught some teams that have been just hotter at the right time,”  Henning said.

The match against Plainfield North was not any different than the rest of the opponents East has faced this season. 

“This was an away match.  The tough thing in away matches is the ability to adjust to how the lane conditions are.  We did not do as good a job as we would have liked and while we won, our scores were below our usual averages,” Henning said.

One of the main struggles for the boys team has been spares. The ability to not knock down ten pins between the two chances has really hurt the team scoring wise. 

“My one struggle is spares.  They are the most important part of the game,” Izzi said.

Henning also seemed to acknowledge the importance of spare shooting, and how it has such a huge impact on the game. 

“Spare shooting is always part of the game that needs work.  Making a strike, while not easy doesn’t leave anything to”clean” up.  Improving accuracy on spare shooting will be the difference as to how far we can go into the state playoffs,” Henning said.

“I think the team as a whole is doing well because everyone who was on the team last year has improved and new members are getting better as well.”

— junior Liam Fitzpatrick

Open frames have also been an obstacle that the boys have had a tough time overcoming. 

“This season it has been the open frames that have killed my scores as well as the scores of my teammates,” Izzi said.

Christiansen has been on the bowling team since his freshman year.  Even as a highly experienced bowler, keeping a good mindset is hard in a difficult season.

“My main struggle is keeping a positive mindset. I could be bowling the best I ever had form wise, but if I’m not in a positive mindset, I will bowl the worst scores of my life,” Christiansen said.

During a down season, players spoke highly of Henning for keeping the team positive during tough times and focused on the matches that lie ahead.

“Coach Henning is one of our biggest supporters. He’s always cheering for us if we get a strike or pick up a split,” Christiansen said. 

While the bowling team has been struggling, Izzi and Christiansen have been having great individual seasons. In average per game, Izzi is currently first place in conference while Christiansen is in fourth. Although the team is struggling now, the future of the team looks very promising.

“Our greatest strength is our greatest weakness: youth.  We’ve got two seniors, one junior and 15 freshmen and sophomores [across the varsity and junior varsity teams combined].  We have a lot of room for growth, but the young players have a lot of development ahead of them,” Henning said.

Junior Liam Fitzpatrick, who has been with the team since he was a freshman, has already noticed an improvement from last year despite the team’s record.

“I think the team as a whole is doing well because everyone who was on the team last year has improved and new members are getting better as well. Even in our losses, I think we improve whenever we play together as a team,” Fitzpatrick said. “There are days where our team could have played better than we did, but over time our team is getting rid of those bad days and keeping our success as a regular occurrence.”

There are six members of the squad with two seniors, one junior, two sophomores, and one freshman. As for the remaining part of the season, Christiansen feels very confident in the team to turn it around.

“I am hopeful we can work out the kinks before regionals, and hopefully we can advance to state as a team,” Christiansen said.

Isaak Izzi also believes the team has a very good chance at getting medals further down the road.

“I think that the remainder of the season looks bright. As a team we have a lot of talent and could put up some big numbers. I think that if we keep practicing and reducing our opens we have a chance to make a run for state,” Izzi said.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the team took part in a tournament with 25 other schools. They took home ninth overall as a team with Christiansen and Izzi both placing in the top five as individuals. Christiansen placed second and Izzi placed fourth. 

The boys next compete in a bowling tournament with several other conference rivals in Channahon on Saturday.

Alex Gerald is a sports writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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