BY JIM COX

Times Bulletin Correspondent

sports@timesbulletin.com

The Van Wert girls bowling team was a pleasant surprise in 2011-12, finishing 8-5, fifth (out of 14 teams) in the West Ohio High School Bowling Conference, despite being short on experience. This year's team seeks to match or exceed that, which could be a challenge.

Gone via graduation are Britany Meyers and her second best average of 159.30, along with Rachel Dettrow's third best 128.95.

Fortunately for the Cougars, the league's tenth best bowler from last year, Kylie Allenbaugh (171.85, high game of 203) is back to anchor the lineup in her fourth varsity year. Allenbaugh was a district qualifier and first team all-WOHSBC last winter.

Other than Allenbaugh, though, the Cougar lineup is a bit short on experience. Seniors Sierra Kesler (128.14 average, 172 high game), Payton Tussing (121.79, 151), and Ashley Buffenbarger (91.09, 131) were varsity rookies last year, as was Celsea Boroff (87.14, 106), now a sophomore. Neither Buffenbarger nor Boroff had ever bowled in an organized league prior to 2011-12.

New to the team are sophomore Dayna Gay, freshman Caitlin Ireland, and freshman Madison Wannemacher. Ireland and Wannemacher have bowled in youth leagues, while Gay is new to the sport.

All eight bowlers are likely to see some varsity action at one point or another, but Tussing, Kesler, and Allenbaugh will usually be in the third, fourth, and fifth spots, respectively. The first and second positions are up for grabs among Buffenbarger, Boroff, Ireland, Wannemacher, and Gay.

A team's total score for a match is determined by adding up the pins from 15 games - ten individual matches (two by each bowler) - and five Baker games. In a Baker game, each of five bowlers rolls two frames - the number one bowler handling frames 1 and 6, number two bowler frames 2 and 7, etc.

"I see our strengths being the seniors," said coach Tracey Allenbaugh. "These four girls can control the team's attitude and how we attack the lanes every week. They know how to stay focused and bowl when they need to. All in all, I would say working as a team will be something that will keep us as surprising underdogs to look out for this season."

Coach Allenbaugh expects last year's top four teams - Coldwater, St. Mary's, Wapakoneta, and Versailles to again set the pace, as they have in recent years. Van Wert has a history of good girls bowling teams, having never finished out of the top half of the league. The Cougars won regular season championships in 2001-2002, 2002-2003, and 2004-2005 (shared with Wapakoneta). St. Henry and Celina have withdrawn from the league, replaced by Russia and Temple Christian.

"My goals are to have a winning season overall, qualify more than one girl to districts, have someone, if not more, qualify for state, and have a very fun and learning season," added Coach Allenbaugh.