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Members of the Woodhaven High School girls bowling team include Megan Valentic (front row, left), Alaina Miller, Tianna Hooks, Hannah Hatala and Erika Crowley. In the back row are Coach Justin Krolak, Serena Belanger, Ciara Rowell, Marissa Jesue, Elizabeth Slane and Coach Josh McCluskey.


BOWLING: No surprise, Woodhaven girls are 5-0 (PHOTOS)

Members of the Woodhaven High School boys bowling team Yousef Safah (front row, left), Ebrahim Safah, Bryce Page and Austin VonLinsowe. Standing are Coach Justin Krolak (left), Tommy Valentic, Connor Thimmes, Austin McCarty, Matt Miller and Coach Josh McCluskey.

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The varsity girls bowling team at Woodhaven High School is off to a 5-0 start and senior Serena Belanger is not surprised.

“I did expect it, actually,” said Belanger, who carries a 181 average. “We got a couple new bowlers during tryouts. When I saw them bowling, I stepped back with Mr. Krolak and said ‘we’re going to have a good team this year and hopefully the whole team can go to states this year.’”

Coach Justin Krolak, in his second year with the team, shared his captain’s excitement.

“We have a team with bowlers that know what it takes to bowl good and they really trust in their coach and their teammates,” he said. “It’s a very close group, too.”

A year ago, Belanger missed tryouts for varsity basketball and went out for bowling for the first time. She bowled well enough in the Division 1 regional tournament to qualify for the state finals.

This season, she wants to end her make her last year of high school bowling even more memorable.

“I try to do my best at every meet,” she said. “I know it’s my last year. Making states with the whole team would be really special to me.”

The girls team has grown to 15 bowlers this year and Belanger and Tianna Hooks are the only two seniors among them.

Three of the top four averages on the team are owned by freshmen. One of the newcomers, Hannah Hatala, leads the Warriors with a 184 average. Ninth-grade teammates Megan Valentic (177) and Alaina Miller (159) also earned spots in the starting lineup.

All three girls had plenty of experience in youth leagues by the time they reached high school and their achievements bode well for Woodhaven’s current season and future.

“I’ve gotten to know the freshmen,” Belanger said. “When we’re on the team and bonding, it doesn’t seem like two seniors and freshmen. It seems like we’re all together. We all get along.”

Actually, the bulk of the girls are juniors, led by Ciara Rowell (148) and Elizabeth Slane (136). The other 11th-graders on the squad are Ashley Coghill, Lauren Collins, Angelica Dennis, Savannah Edwards, Rachel Smith and Marissa Strickland.

Two sophomores, Erika Crowley (143) and Marissa Jesue (129), round out the team.

As a unit, the Warriors have the third-highest team average (729) for five bowlers among teams in the combined Downriver League and Western Wayne Athletic Conference. Their 921 scratch game is best among Downriver teams. They also have the third highest team Baker game score, 216, this season.

“I think we’re going to do big things,” Belanger said. “I think Woodhaven is going to stand out.”

Last year’s Woodhaven boys team just missed qualifying for the state tournament. This year’s Warriors are without standout, Michael Lucas, who graduated in June. Still, they have had close games and are working hard to improve their 2-3 record.

“Our team is looking good,” said Austin VonLinsowe, one of four seniors on the squad. “We have a few new faces and a couple freshmen. Everybody is working hard. Anything can happen this year. With hard work, we can make it to states.”

The six bowlers with the top averages on the team are very balanced. Junior anchor bowler Matt Miller (184 average) and freshman Austin McCarty (182) lead the way. Senior Tommy Valentic – Megan’s brother – carries a 174 average and leads the team with head-to-head points with six in nine games.

Rounding out the top six bowlers are senior Yousef Safah (164), VonLinsowe (160) and sophomore Connor Thimmes (154) round out the top six bowlers.

Joining them on the 11-bowler roster are first-year senior David Coon, junior transfer Anthony Schimmel, sophomores Anthony Budaus and Bryce Page and freshman Ebrahim Safah.

Coach Krolak said the team’s ability to make spares will determine its fate the rest of the season.

“I tell the kids that strikes win games, but spares win championships,” he said. “You can get a bunch of strikes in a game and may win the game. Our goal is to have the girls and boys win state championships.”

VonLinsowe, the team’s leadoff bowler, said the sport is growing in popularity at the high school.

“A lot of people are hearing about how fun it is and we have a good team,” he said. “They want to come out and have fun and help the bowling team win.”

Last Updated: 1/17/2014 1:29:07 PM EST