Sitting pretty comfortably in fourth place in the team standings Saturday at the Resurrection Regional tournament, the members of Evanston’s girls bowling team didn’t take anything for granted.
They caught fire in the last game with a team score of 954 – a season best – and jumped into third in the final standings, easily good enough to qualify for Saturday’s sectional at their home lanes at Classic Bowl in Morton Grove.
Evanston Township High School advanced with a pinfall of 5,041, behind only Resurrection (5,553) and Lane Tech (5,167). Also earning an automatic qualifying berth was fourth place New Trier at 4,968.
The Wildkits were fueled by a robust 247 in Game 6 from junior Lily Pavelec, on her way to a second place individual finish with a total of 1,132. Mia Kottke of Resurrection topped the individual field with her score of 1,224.
Junior J.B. Burgess added a 201 in that Game 6, and sophomore E.J. Bock contributed a 177 coming off the bench to replace a tired starter for a young and exciting ETHS team that only has two seniors in its top seven.
“That last game was really something,” said Wildkit head coach Ray Austin. “We were howling and screaming out there. We really caught fire.
“We were in fourth place at the time and we were looking pretty good, although Regina Dominican [the eventual sixth place team] was after us and we didn’t know what they could do. But when Lily went out there and started striking, it was contagious for the whole team. We just followed the leader.”
Pavelec, who qualified for the sectional last year as an individual, missed most of the season after spending the semester in India, traveling with her mother to that country. She had to sit out competition for 30 days after she returned, as dictated by the Illinois High School Association, and could only practice with the Wildkits.
That benching by the IHSA didn’t prevent Austin from naming her as team captain when she came back.
“We had to send letters to the IHSA and she had to re-enroll at the school when she came back,” said Austin. “We couldn’t fight it. Usually, when bowlers go that long without bowling – she definitely didn’t pick up a ball when she was in India – they can get a little rusty. But they also can come back and be dangerous. It looks like her stroke is back now.
“It was an opportunity for her to experience life in another country, but it broke my heart when she left. It’s all good now, though. I named her a captain because you could see that the leadership was there when she came back, that the other girls really took to her. Usually our captains are seniors, but she wanted to try it.”
Pavelec showed the way Saturday, backed up by sophomore Neva Whitcomb (1,039), freshman Jordin Gibson (830 for five games) and Bridget Bueltmann (769 for five games). The Wildkits were able to advance despite still missing one of their starters, Nina Fischer. The sophomore suffered a bruised knee in the closing weeks of the season and missed the last couple of matches.
“We always talk about the next man up performing, but that’s difficult when you don’t have a lot of experience [on the bench],” Austin said. “We’ll just roll with who we have going forward.
“We need another top-four finish in our home house to keep the season going and get to State. If we don’t make it as a team, I think we’re certainly looking at a couple of top [potential] individual qualifiers. We have to be better than we were at the regional, probably in the 5,100 or 5,200 range. We’ll be up against some veteran senior bowlers who understand that this could be their last go-around.”