The Highland High School girls bowling team finished the regular season by reeling off 14 straight wins, including putting the finishing touches on capturing the Mississippi Valley Conference championship outright with a 31-9 victory over visiting Triad on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at Poplar Junction Lanes.
Then on Saturday, the Lady Bulldogs (15-1 overall, 9-1 MVC), who are coached by Laura Wander-Vrell and Pam Schrumpf, continued their roll into the postseason by being crowned regional champions for the first time in school history after winning the IHSA Alton Regional at Bowl Haven Lanes.
Highland logged a winning total pin count of 5,456 to beat out runner-up Vandalia (5,292) by 164 pins. Triad (4,963) finished third, and host Alton (4,894) earned fourth place. All four teams qualified for this Saturday’s IHSA Mount Vernon Sectional to be held at NuBowl Lanes in Mount Vernon.
Freshman Molly Marshall made the regional even more special by executing a perfect game in her first game of the afternoon session, her fourth game of the day overall. It also was the Highland bowling program’s first-ever 300 game, boy or girl. The previous girls’ record for an individual game was 288 set by Kayla Gruner on Jan. 19, 2011.
Marshall’s perfect game also lifted her into a second-place individual finish with a six-game series of 1,216, which equates to a hefty 202.67 average.
“I can not express how proud I am of these girls for sticking together and bringing this win home,” said Highland coach Laura Wander-Vrell, who is assisted by Pam Schrumpf. “And for Molly shooting the first 300 game. Not all sports have a number that says ‘I have reached perfection.’ I have waited 21 years to see one of our players shoot one in a match, and I can’t express how absolutely magical it is. I can’t wait for sectionals on Saturday.”
Marshall only finished behind regional champion Alex Bergin of Alton, who finished with a 1,246 six-game series (207.67 average).
“Well, to be my first, it means the world to me,” Marshall said. “I figured it would’ve been just at a practice or something not very important. But to be at regionals — wow! It was the most perfect time for me to shoot it. And the first 300 game in school history — double wow! I know that I wanted to beat a 280, since that’s the school record. Not only did I beat it, I also got another record for being the first to get to the 300. It’s just mind-blowing to me.”
Marshall said she has been working hard to improve her game for six years.
“I’ve watched so many pros and want to be just like them,” she said. “And to shoot a game like them means everything to me. I’ve been bowling super good lately, and I knew this would come soon, but I didn’t expect this soon. The hard work has most definitely paid off. I’m at the bowling alley close to every day practicing everything that you can think of —angles, spares, strikes, release, you name it. My goals for sectionals is to pick more spares. I definitely missed many spares today. I want to stay in the shot and focus on the next shot — one at a time.”
After bowling a good 572 three-game set in the morning on games of 186, 193 and 193, Marshall rolled 12 consecutive strikes to make history. She then admitted to being a bit emotional when she finished with games of 161 and 182.
Senior Emma Schuster also had a solid day, coming in third place overall with a six-game aggregate of 1,190, which is a strong 198.33 average.
“I think all the practice and hard work has definitely paid off,” Schuster said. “I’m unbelievably proud of my team. We’ve really accomplished so much already this season. We set goals for ourselves and push through to reach them. I’m super happy with how well we’ve been doing, and I love that us seniors are finishing off our high school careers strong. I’m looking forward to sectionals next weekend.”
Highland sophomore Kayla Rutz rolled a 1,030 (171.67) six-game series, which included high games of 186, 185 and 183.
Highland also received good games from junior Delaney Grimes (189, 183), senior Haley Basler (181, 180) and senior Kali Rutz (177).
Highland 31, Triad 9
Against Triad to end the regular season, Highland swept all 20 of the match’s team points and won the match’s overall pin count by 286 pins, 2,788 to 2,502.
The Bulldogs nipped the Knights 11-9 in individual points, with Marshall and Basler gaining all four of their potential points.
Marshall achieved the highest series in the match with a three-game set of 640, which was also spotlighted by the superior individual game of the match at a 245 first game. She also bowled two good final games of 191 and 204.
Basler was also impressive after shooting a 608 series on descending but solid games of 213, 204 and 191.
Also for Highland, Schuster bowled a 599 series on games of 197, 212 and 190 and Grimes had top games of 180 and 179.
For Triad, Lizzie Powell and Lane Burrelsman won all four of their individual points. Powell finished just two pins behind Marshall with a 638 series. She rolled quality games of 199, 227 and 212.
Also bowling good games for the Knights were Burrelsman (215), Jordyn Hampton (178, 177), Karsyn Braasch (171).
Highland’s junior varsity team also finished the season with a win after blanking Triad 7-0. Top games were shot by Sydney Basler (169, 161) and Maci Pfister (169).