Every pin counts is a mantra of the Libertyville girls bowling team, and that was certainly the case Saturday at the Zion-Benton Sectional at Sunset Lanes in Waukegan.
The Wildcats finished with a six-game total of 5,568, good for the fourth and final qualifying spot at this weekend’s state tournament at Cherry Bowl in Rockford. Libertyville edged fifth-place Grayslake North by a grand total of four pins. Schaumburg was the team champion (5,852).
This is the first time since 2000 that the Wildcats qualified for the state tournament.
Libertyville had a 10-pin advantage over Grayslake North and an 11-pin lead on Palatine going into the final game. Libertyville coach Lindsey Siegel, however, does not coach her team to look at the scoreboard.
“It’s been our goal all year to keep our eyes on our own paper and focus on what we can control,” she said. “We can’t worry about the numbers. We just have to stay within our own heads and bowl.”
Added senior Natalie Zeng, “Your knee-jerk instinct is to want to know, but this lets us focus on our own games and [bowling] to our own standards.”
When the final game was complete Saturday, there was about a 15-minute break to tabulate the final scores before Siegel was able to break the good news to the Wildcats.
The wait seemed longer for the girls whose season was at stake.
“I told the team around winter break that I wanted to go to state and I didn’t want to go alone,” Zeng said. “When our coach told us, we were all sort of in shock and I started crying. It was a very emotional point of the day, and we were all blown away by how close it was and how this was proof that every pin counts.”
Zeng led the way for Libertyville with an average of 212 and a six-game total of 1,272. Sophomores Emma Davellis (1,156) and Taylor Sloan (1,077) and junior Kaci Cibrario (1,056) also recorded pin totals of more than 1,000. Junior Jackie Garcia and freshman Ally Doherty also contributed.
Davellis is the only Wildcat with state tournament experience. She qualified as an individual as a freshman.
“We’re so [excited] that [Zeng] gets to go in her senior year,” Davellis said. “She’s always giving us pointers and telling us what we’re doing well. She’s like the mother figure on the team.”
The Wildcats started slow this season but came around in January and won a conference championship. Their strong bowling has continued into the postseason.
“We got better at making our spares and we started communicating more,” Siegel said. “If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll be fine. We’ll continue to stay focused on our game and not what’s going on around us.”