By Joshua Fitch
The Youngstown State University women’s bowling team is ready to open its season this weekend after a long offseason.
The Penguins will be under a new interim head coach whose name hasn’t been released yet, after former head coach Chelsea Gilliam left the program to take the head coaching gig at Bethune-Cookman University earlier this month.
Despite some uncertainty surrounding the team, YSU is ready for its first tournament in Reading, Penn., for the Bud Whitman Memorial.
“I think of all of the motivation,” sophomore Emma Dockery said. “To actually go out and try to win a tournament and get back out there. There’s a lot of excitement that builds up and a renewed energy. Whereas towards the end of the season, especially last year, it was a rough season. It was slow and tiring, and you could feel it everywhere. So, it’s nice we have a refresh.”
Entering just its third season as a team, the bowling squad looks to improve off last year, a season in which it won under half of its games within the eight tournaments.
“Part of the refresh is getting into a new system and try new things,” Dockery said, who was named Most Valuable Player by her teammates last season. “There’s a certain excitement and motivation that builds up in that, and if we can ride that, it can be really beneficial for us as a program.”
With a season that spans from October to April and is very travel heavy, preparation is key during the entire offseason, not just as a team but individually as well.
“Just lots of practice,” junior Nikki Mendez said. “We do a lot of drills and a lot of team bonding goes into it because you have to be comfortable on lanes. It’s mostly individual. It depends how you release the ball. There can be different releases, some people will either cup their hand a lot or they might weaken it but getting to the line is pretty much the same for everybody.”
In a sport of precision, changes to the speed of the ball, technique and lane adjustments are constantly made throughout the season. That is something the team is consistently preparing for during the season, and prior to the season beginning.
“There’s a lot of change you have to make in a very short time,” Dockery said. “Last year, I made a goal and I had to work for it all summer. Now I feel like I’m actually getting it, so there’s a lot you have to figure out what you want to change and change it in a short period of time so you’re ready to go in October.”
The Penguins practice as a team at Holiday Bowl located in Struthers. This is where the prep of a new season is born and where goals are set. However, while most of the offseason is tuning precision and accuracy on the lanes, part of the preparation that goes into a long bowling season is conditioning, an aspect of the sport that is often overlooked.
“Most people don’t think we need to, but when you’re standing for eight hours a day for three days your legs are tired, so it really helps to condition,” Mendez said. “We’re going to start running and things like that, so it’ll definitely help our stamina. Mentally, being with the girls every day and doing the stuff outside of practice rather than focusing on bowling 24-7.”
The team doesn’t host a tournament throughout the season in Youngstown, meaning all tournaments the Penguins are a part of in the Southland Conference this season are played away, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“We go from Pennsylvania, to Texas, to Wisconsin and to Florida,” Mendez said.
She added that her favorite part of a new season is “being on the road again with everyone because we always make a lot of memories together.”
With any team, especially one that’s only in its third season ever, expectations within the group are realistic, but always high. With a new season starting this weekend, there’s no reason the goals for 2018-2019 can’t become a reality.
“We legitimately think we can make the championships this year,” Dockery said, “That’s our high goal, and our normal goal, that we believe we should have no problem reaching, is that we want to be top 20 in the nation. Right now, we’re number 26, so it’s very attainable and I think we can do it after the first couple tournaments.”