Jennies bowling set the tone for another successful season with a first place victory at the Drury Baker Challenger last weekend and put to rest some of the concerns surrounding the young team this season.
Although the Jennies ranked No. 10 in the National TenPin Coaches Association’s preseason poll, they entered the first contest of the season on a somewhat of an uneasy note.
One of the biggest preseason concerns for the Jennies was junior Brianna Zimmerman’s inability to bowl due to injury. Zimmerman carried an average of 180 last seasons and was named MIAA Most Outstanding Player for the postseason tournament.
The Jennies also graduated four seniors last season. Last season’s senior class of Marina Stever, Carly Thomas, Heather Wiehe and Samantha Roberts combined for seven top ten finishes.
Although there isn’t an abundance of experienced leaders on the team, Jennies bowling head coach Ron Holmes explained that Noelle Garrsion, the team’s sole senior, excels in stepping into a leadership role.
“Noelle has really grown into her own player,” Holmes said. “She’s become a great person for us to lean on for experience.”
The graduation of seniors and Zimmerman’s injury created an opportunity for young talent to take on prominent roles. Several freshmen have taken on starting spots on the team, including international freshmen Isabella Correa Sarmiento and Katey Fruze.
Correa Sarmiento originates from Cali, Columbia and won a total of six medals at the 2016 Central American and Caribbean Youth Championships.
Fruze hails from Cairns, Queensland, Australia. While redshirting for the Jennies last season Fruze represented Team Australia at the Asian World Championships.
“They come from their national teams and that experience crosses over to our NCAA college enviorment,” Holmes said. “They help teach each other and get a chance to see how each other’s games evolve.”
Holmes stressed that the most essential aspect for the freshmen to pick up while they are working their way into starting spots is consistency.
“The biggest thing for us is consistency, Holmes said. “And setting a certain standard we like to play and then maintaining that Last year we showed some flashes of playing at high level but we couldn’t maintain it and weren’t very consistent.”
The flashes of high-level performances that Holmes spoke of occurred sporadically throughout the Jennies season last year. They won the Drury Baker Challenger, the Lindenwood Lion Classic, and the MIAA Championship.
The inconsistency surfaced in the Jennies 19th place finish at the Vanderbilt, their 14th place finish at the Kutztown invitational, and their 9th place finish at the Arkansas State Mid-Winter Classic.
The Drury Baker Challenge proved to be an opportunity for the Jennies to put up more consistent numbers. The “A” team totaled 7,713 points, almost 600 more than the second-place Culver Stockton Wildcats.
“Some of the ladies aren’t used to training at this level and practicing this much,” Holmes said. “So it’s all part of getting them set up for the challenges that will be here in the second part of the fall.”
The Jennies will look to improve upon their constancy as they hit the road to compete in the McKendree Invitational Oct. 27-29 in Belleville, Illinios.