It’s not too early for Kennewick High School girls bowling coach Oscar Garnica and his counterparts to plan for the postseason.
“League is practice for the big show,” Garnica said.
Mid-Columbia Conference leader Hanford (7-1), hoping to make its third consecutive state appearance, lost to Selah in what ended up being their final match before winter break. Falcons coach Tim Faix said his team missed its chance to warm up and struggled in the first two games.
“It served as a learning experience and wake-up call,” Faix said. “The importance of mental and physical preparation is more clear. The ability for each bowler to make adjustments and deal with stressful conditions is what we need to be ready for.”
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Hanford has dominated in most of its other matches, getting major contributions from sophomore Sara Harris (187.3 average) and juniors Megan Bean (177) and Danyelle Moore (165).
The Falcons will be back on the lanes Jan. 7, visiting a much-improved Walla Walla squad.
Blue Devils sophomore Kayla Davis leads the MCC with a 187.82 average, just ahead of Harris. Walla Walla won two matches last season but is 3-4 this winter after defeating Chiawana, Kennewick and Richland.
“Last year they beat us pretty good, so that was a nice turnaround and confidence booster for the team,” Wa-Hi coach Jason Postlewait said.
The Blue Devils will face Chiawana (5-2) on Jan. 5 at Go Bowl in Pasco. Senior Maricela Perez (158), sophomore Caitlynne Burke (155) and junior Najeli Ruiz (151) have helped the Riverhawks become the MCC’s top Class 4A team.
“My bowlers have really stepped it up this year and want to practice every chance they get,” Chiawana coach David Gussenhoven said. “They are motivated to learn about lane conditions and how their ball will react to the lanes.”
Second-place Selah (6-2) survived huge tests to close out the first half of the season, beating Hanford and Kennewick on pin count on back-to-back days. Junior RayAnn Davis (172) and senior Maggie Cox (164) are ranked fourth and seventh in the MCC.
“Our goals are to continue improving on our spare shooting, our focus/concentration on the lanes and to get all five girls bowling at their highest potential at the same time,” Selah coach William Foster said. “This Viking team is looking very promising after a couple of years of disappointing results.”
Kennewick dropped to 4-5 with its loss to Selah last week, but it would be foolish to count out the Lions, who missed state last season for only the second time in 10 years. Seniors Samantha Dewey (159) and Teagan Kirby (149), junior Marivel Macias (156) and sophomore Alexandria Baraby (143) have each bowled in all 18 games.
Pasco and Richland, both 3-5, also could threaten down the stretch.
Richland defeated Selah 3-1 and lost to Hanford by 83 pins, while defending 4A district champion Pasco swept both matches against Wa-Hi.
“We look forward to all matches after break as we have some catching up to do,” Bulldogs coach Teresa Chavez said.
Pasco senior Adri Montes and juniors Josie Derrick and Jackie Gonzalez all are averaging over 150. Richland has come to rely on Shyanne Thorne (169), fellow junior Darby Miller (158) and senior Rebecca Johnson (154).
“Any one, or two, of these girls usually bowl great during any given match,” Richland coach Jason Bare said. “They have all shared the spotlight at least once during a match. The latest one to do so was Shyanne, who bowled a 157 and a 212 against Kennewick last Tuesday.”
Even last-place Connell (0-7) has reasons to be optimistic. Coach David Dixon is seeing rapid improvement from his younger bowlers. Shelby Kessler, a senior and one of four returners from last season, has a team-high 121 average.
An appearance at February’s state tournament in University Place might be out of reach for the Eagles, so Dixon has some immediate goals for his girls, ones that all teams can appreciate.
“Improve every time we bowl,” he said. “Keep the girls motivated and interested in the sport. Try to build the program for the future.”