After a down year where the team was short on numbers, Highland High School veteran bowling coach Laura Wander-Vrell said the Lady Bulldogs should return to form this season.
Last year, Highland only had eight total team members which left the team devoid of depth. But this season the program is back up to full force with 12 team members and now Wander-Vrell now has depth throughout the program.
“It’s been a little bit of a lull, but I feel pretty good now and I am excited that I have girls that want to do this, like the sport, want to be part of a team and compete,” Wander-Vrell said. “It’s sad when a sport you’ve grown up with as a kid and then coached it as long as Pam (Schrumpf) and I have coached it, and you don’t have enough kids interested. I am excited because we should have a good year.”
The Lady Bulldogs have three seniors, Emma Schuster, Haley Basler and Kali Rutz.
Schuster and Basler were sectional qualifiers a year ago.
Schuster is the deserved team captain because she is the most experienced player in the entire program. Schuster will now be a varsity team member all four years after playing up during some of her freshman campaign.
“She is a good captain,” Wander-Vrell said of Schuster. “She is quiet but leads by example. If you play varsity for four years, you should be the captain.”
Basler and Rutz are both in the varsity lineup for the second straight season.
Schuster and freshman Molly Marshall are far and away the top two bowlers in the program, carrying a sporty 200 average prior the season opener Wednesday, Nov. 29 at home against Roxana
As a sixth grader in March 2015, Marshall won the girls state title at the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association State Bowling Tournament at St. Clair Bowl in Fairview Heights. She shot a six-game series of 1,068, which equates to a 178 single-game average. Her highest games were 225, 184 and 179.
Rest of squad
Next on the scoring pylon for the Lady Bulldogs are Basler and sophomore Kayla Rutz, who bowl for a 160 average. Kayla Rutz is no relation to Kali Rutz.
Rounding out the top six bowlers in the program are Kali Rutz and junior Delaney Grimes, who shoot a 150 average.
Just outside the top six are freshman Maci Pfister and sophomore Mackenzie Myer.
Completing the roster are junior Holly Wrobbel, first-year sophomore Izzy Scaggs and freshmen Sydney Basler and Piper Myer.
Chase for conference
Last year, Highland struggled and finished in an atypical position in fourth place in the six-team Mississippi Valley Conference.
Mascoutah is perennially the gold standard in the league and everybody else is always trying to topple the Indians from their top perch and Wander-Vrell believes that will hold true again this season.
Triad lost top bowler Lainey Snow to graduation and it should be a bit of rebuilding year. However, the Knights still should be competitive.
Jerseyville, Civic Memorial Waterloo should bring up the rear in the MVC.
Wander-Vrell believes her team will reclaim a finish more worthy of its past glory when it perennially battled Mascoutah for the conference title.
“With Molly (Marshall) and Emma (Schuster) in there, I would say we have a really good shot at finishing in the top two,” Wander-Vrell said. “Mascoutah will be tough again but I think it will be a good year for us and I am excited.”