Team titles can be won or lost on how well the individual members click.
Just ask Kennewick High's bowling team.
Ive been on varsity all four years, Karissa Shiflet said. Our first year, we were really good. We had a lot of talent, but our team chemistry was really bad. We all hated each other, so that kind of messed us up at state. My sophomore year, we didnt really have either. No one worked together, so if one of us was doing bad, the other ones wouldnt pick us up. Wed all just do bad.
Things improved a little last year, but this seasons main five Shiflet, fellow seniors Danielle Gonzales and Xochitl Garcia, junior Daicee Singer and sophomore Savanna Jones might be the right combination to bring home a state title.
Kennewick went 15-0 in the Mid-Columbia Conference for its first undefeated season. The Lions then dominated at the district tournament on their way to this weekends state championships in University Place.
This year we all like each other, Shiflet said. We get along better. One persons not singled out. We all try to hang out when we can.
Like any team, the Lions have their share of personality conflicts or drama, Kennewick coach Oscar Garnica says, but its much easier to work through it these days.
Im so proud of this team because of the unity they have, Garnica said. At any given time, one of them could step up and say, Hey, lets get it going. They have respect for each other.
They also respect what each bowler has done to get to this point.
Shiflet, who has bowled for nine years, is the defending Class 2A/3A individual state champion. Until this season, she said she had to fight a lot of misconceptions from her teammates.
Freshman year, there were people talking me up a lot when I came in, she said. Everybody hated me, so I kind of had to show them that I wasnt like what everyone said. I wasnt the cocky person that everyone said I was.
Meanwhile, Garcia, who didnt bowl before joining the Lions as a freshman, had to convince others that it was a worthy activity. She even had an awkward encounter early on with Gonzales.
I came into class, and I had my uniform on, and shes like, So what do you play? Bowling.
Shes like, Is bowling even a sport?
Gonzales laughed when she heard Garcias recollection.
I didnt think bowling was a big deal, said Gonzales, who started bowling three years ago. I thought it was just, Im going to throw the ball down there, and Ill hope for a strike. Now its my thing. Its like a part of me now. Theres certain techniques you have to do and certain things you have to work on. Its a long road.
With practice, however, Gonzales and her teammates have seen results.
Singer, an admitted gutterball roller as a freshman, was third in the MCC this season with a 171 average behind Shiflet (192) and Hanfords Kendal Saueressig (182).
Gonzales (168) and Garcia (163) also finished in the top 10 in the conference in scoring, while Jones, a first-year varsity bowler, averaged a 158.
All five made the all-MCC team, so each bowler is relieved to know if she has a bad game, she has a solid core behind her that can pick up the slack.
At districts, Shiflet struggled in the first game, bowling a 150. But Gonzales rolled a 209, Jones a 164 and Garcia a 163 to help the Lions record a pin count of 830, well ahead of the rest of the field.
In the second and third games, Shiflet led the Lions with a 215-190, and Kennewick won the team title with a total of 3,863, outdistancing runner-up West Valley (3,337).
We basically have each others backs, Gonzales said. Were each others backup.
Theyre also one anothers support system.
Its like when one of us is happy, were all happy, and then when one of us is sad, all of us are sad, Shiflet said. We all feed off each others energy.
With state still ahead, no one wants to think about what the team dynamic might be like next season, when Shiflet, Gonzales and Garcia are gone.
Singer, Jones and state alternates Viktoriya Uvarova and Sabrina Bare know they will have to keep the team on track, but right now, the Lions are focused on having fun and enjoying the moment.
Theres just something special about the five of us, Jones said. Were just one piece of the puzzle, and we make a perfect match.
2013 WIAA State Bowling Championships
When: Friday-Saturday, Narrows Plaza Bowl, University Place
Schedule: Six regular games Friday for individuals and teams (first round begins at 10 a.m.); 14 baker games Saturday for teams (second round begins at 8 a.m.)
Local qualifiers: Class 4A Pasco team: Karla Garcia, Neydeen Martinez, Carrie Nolan, Maddy Serrano, Mariko Sital (alternate Marissa Sital); Individuals: Desirae Baker, Richland; Mekenzie Richardson, Richland.
Class 3A/2A Kennewick team: Xochitl Garcia, Danielle Gonzales, Savanna Jones, Karissa Shiflet, Daicee Singer (alternates Sabrina Bare and Viktoriya Uvarova); Individuals: Robin Hansen, Hanford; Kendal Saueressig, Hanford; Johanna Chumley, Sunnyside.
Last years team champions: Battle Ground (4A) and Mark Morris (3A/2A).
Last years individual champions: Wylicia Faley, Battle Ground (4A) and Shiflet, Kennewick (3A/2A).