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BOWLING: Dakota girls earn shot at bowling title

Both LCN teams advance

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Dakota’s state title hopes in bowling this year will rest on the shoulders of the Cougars girls’ team.

The boys’ team, which had won two straight state Division 1 championships, didn’t qualify for this year’s state tournament but Dakota’s girls took up the gauntlet and dominated the regional at Five Star Lanes in Sterling Heights.

The Cougars moved into the lead after the last two Baker games and stayed on top through the three regular games to finish with a total score of 3865. Stevenson was second with a 3683 score. L’Anse Creuse North was the third qualifier to next weekend’s state tournament in Muskegon with a total pin fall of 3559.

“I knew last year that they were coming on,” said Dakota coach Joe Berak. “I’ve said before that once they learn to bowl as a team, good things are going to happen.”

Eisenhower and Chippewa Valley finished out of the running in fourth and fifth place respectively.

Dakota got off to a slow start, opening with Baker games of 149 and 154.

“I could tell they were nervous,” Berak said. “This wasn’t the team I’m used to seeing. I’ve got my best lineup and they’re struggling to find the right ball. I told them, ‘this isn’t like practice. I want you to get the right piece in your hand and get the right angles and you’ll be fine.’”

Dakota shot 357 in the second block of two Baker games and rolled 221 and 237 in the final two Bakers.

“By that time everyone was lined in,” Berak said.

Dakota went into the third regular game leading Stevenson by 154 pins and the Cougars were more than 300 pins ahead of fourth-place Eisenhower, but Berak wasn’t satisfied with just qualifying.

“I figured we were in, but I didn’t want to be just in,” he said. “I wanted to send a statement. I wanted to win the regional. It’s a nice piece of hardware and I wanted to send a statement to the other regionals. I’ll be looking tonight at how Davison and Carman-Ainsworth did. I want to know how we stack up against the other regionals.

“Last year we dropped from first place to third. I told the girls, ‘you’re here to win.’ I was on full throttle today.”

Bowling for Dakota were Marissa Solnik, Nicole Mikaelian, Ashlee Juricny, Jenna Nottle, Samantha Gusmano, Sierra Stade and Olivia Neumann.

Berak thinks the Cougars girls can carry on where the boys left off.

“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a chance for a state championship,” he said. “We finished fifth last year and our girls have improved a ton -- 15 to 25 pins average for a lot of them. I think we’re a top four team.

“The key is to get a high seed because I don’t want to be dealing with Davison or even Stevenson. I wanted to send a message and the girls delivered 100 percent on that one. I couldn’t be happier.”

L’Anse Creuse North’s girls improved as the day went on.

“They started out OK and then gradually got comfortable with the conditions,” said girls coach Darin Driscoll. “It was really a team effort. Alyssa Meade had a 227 game. If somebody wasn’t bowling well, somebody else stepped up.”

Brian Thomas, who oversees the Crusaders program, said he was happy for Meade.

“Alyssa has put her heart and soul into this program,” he said. “She’s qualified two years in a row for singles and is going for a third tomorrow. It was so important for her to take the team in her senior year.”

Other members of the LCN girls team were Hannah Holeton, Haley Holeton, Jackie Belanger, Ashley Renock and Samantha Gainor.

On the boys’ side of the regional, L’anse Creuse North advanced by placing second.

"It came down to the last few frames," said Crusaders’ Coach Mike Holeton. “We knew we were really close. We didn't get Utica but the main thing is to go to the state.

"They've been bowling well all year. The last couple weeks in the MAC Red we had a tough time and fell to third, but it's been a good season. Macomb County has some of the toughest teams in the state. Hopefully, one of the three of us can keep (the state championship) in Macomb County."

The Crusaders started slowly with a 180 in the first Baker game but picked it up after that.

Freshman Kyle Hayes had a 645 series in the regular games, starting out with a 257.

"He sparked us," Thomas said. "That first singles after the Baker games is always a key. Get that first one under your belt and get good position."

Mike Michalski (610) and Jordan Bingham (602) also bowled well in the three regular games. Other members of the LCN team were Cody McKay, Tyler Crescenti, Trevor Mackowiak, Bradley Thomas and Austin Bless.

Dakota’s boys finished fourth, just missing a chance to defend its title. Eisenhower placed sixth.

In the individual portion of the regional, Kevin Craft of Eisenhower and Jeff Pietryka finished second and third, qualifying for the state finals. Michael Jachcinski was seventh, also advancing as the top 10 bowlers moved on.

For the girls, L’Anse Creuse North, Dakota and Chippewa Valley each qualified two bowlers for the state finals. The Crusaders’ Alyssa Meade won the regional title by averaging 206 a game, with a high game of 235. The Cougars’ Marissa Solnik and Nicole Mikaelian were second and third, while Elizabeth Ireland was fifth.

LCN’s Samantha Gainor was sixth, while Big Reds’ bowlers Kristen Young and Sunshrae Heller came in eight and ninth. Heller rolled a 236 game.

Last Updated: 2/25/2013 10:38:25 AM EST