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Girls bowling: Oswego East, Waubonsie among state favorites

Updated: March 9, 2013 6:18AM

Waubonsie Valley and Oswego East are just 3.5 miles apart, and the distance between their girls bowling teams can be measured by a few dozen pins.

The local rivals have taken turns beating each other by slim margins over the past two seasons and are poised to do so again this weekend on the sport’s biggest stage.

Oswego East and Waubonsie Valley will be two of the favorites to win the team championship at the state finals at Cherry Bowl in Rockford. The preliminary round starts at 9:45 a.m. Friday with the finals beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

Though teams like Collinsville, Minooka and Lockport also are capable of winning, Oswego East and Waubonsie Valley appear to have an advantage, with veteran lineups loaded with talent. Their sectional scores were 300 pins better than anyone else, with the Wolves edging the Warriors 6,582-6,530 to win the Plainfield North Sectional last Saturday. Both totals were school records and, interestingly, the 52-pin margin was a reversal of last year’s state finals, when the Warriors beat the Wolves by the same amount to capture the third-place trophy.

“We owe them our 52 pins back,” Waubonsie Valley coach Marty Miller quipped. “It’s going to be a battle, but what I tell my girls is, we never take any opponent lightly. We respect everyone, so we don’t go into any tournament singling out one opponent.”

Neither side has to. The players on both teams like each other and match up well.

Oswego East is led by senior Giselle Poss, a Vanderbilt recruit who is making her third state finals appearance. Poss earned a medal last year when she finished 11th and won this year’s sectional title by edging Waubonsie junior Julia Bond 1,444-1,440. Both are threats to win the individual crown as they had the third- and fourth-highest sectional scores.

“She has definitely been an unbelievable asset, someone that you build a team around,” Oswego East coach Jeremy Hillman said of Poss. “She takes ownership of that No. 1 spot but she doesn’t mind sharing it with others. Hopefully she goes into the weekend relaxed and knows that she doesn’t have to carry us. She knows what to do.”

While Poss, who has a 4.2 GPA and plans to major in chemistry in college, is the unquestioned leader, the Wolves beat the Warriors without her in a dual meet in December. Senior Tricia Thornton ranked seventh among sectional performers with a 1,361 and sophomore Kailey Kopacz ranked 10th with a career-high 1,353. Freshman Abby Ragsdale fired a 1,218, while junior Taylor DeLano and sophomore Averee Bottcher shared the No. 5 position and combined to shoot 1,206.

“This is definitely the strongest group of six girls we’ve ever had,” said Hillman, whose team has finished in the top six at state four times since 2007, the year they took second. “We’ve got a really good group of girls that are all pushing toward the same goal. That’s a pretty good team Marty Miller has over there and we’re not too shabby either.”

Of all the local girls, Poss has the most unique perspective because Miller has been her private coach since she was in eighth grade.

“He’s taught me everything I know about bowling, both physically and mentally,” Poss said. “He built a foundation to my game and I owe it all to him and my parents.”

So what will it be like to go up against Miller’s team?

“It’s pretty exciting,” Poss said. “I do want to see their team do well because he’s my coach, but I also want to see my team do well, even better. We want to win the whole thing and (beat) Waubonsie because it will be payback for last year. Individually I want to do the same thing and make my team proud.”

Both squads have made their respective coaches proud this season. Both won their respective conference titles and the Wolves have captured all but one tournament they’ve entered.

The Warriors won three of the six tournaments they entered and did so in impressive fashion. They crushed a tough field which included state powers Minooka, Rockford Jefferson and Harlem by 589 pins to take the Prospect Invite and won a tournament at Cherry Bowl by 335 pins last month.

Waubonsie has a slight edge in depth as all but one starter returns from the squad that captured the program’s first trophy. Bond has led the way this season after being the No. 5 scorer at state last year.

Seniors Charley Barbary, who was 15th at state in 2012, and Marianna Guerrieri both rolled 1,254 at sectionals, with junior Rachael Felton right behind at 1,252. Junior Sara Barsotti, the only new starter, rolled a 1,330, which ranked 13th statewide. Senior reserves Breanna Cura, who fired 18 consecutive strikes in a regular season dual against Metea Valley, and Taylor Westwood also are formidable.

While both sides are gunning for their first state title, the teams know nothing can be taken for granted during what promises to be a dramatic tournament.

“The big thing is just making sure we don’t put that pressure on ourselves to be No. 1,” Hillman said. “If we win we’re going to have two or three girls who could medal, so the individual (part) will take care of itself. The team is first.”

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