Saturday afternoon brought bittersweet feelings for the Saint Ignatius varsity bowling team.
On the one hand, the Wildcats made a Herculean effort as underdogs to clinch a spot in the District Tournament. So simply appearing at the District level (for the first time since 2014) felt like a huge achievement.
On the other hand, the Alley Cats had plenty of fun together as a team. The results might have been up and down, but you could never doubt the passion and enthusiasm of this Saint Ignatius squad. These Wildcats love being together – at school, at practice, and at the alleys. Several members of the team showed up early to Stonehenge Lanes on Saturday to play Euchre.
So when the season ended on Saturday afternoon in Akron with a 15th place finish at the District Tourney, the Wildcats felt emotional.
"Quote," said Noah Virant. "Quote. "
The Wildcats opened up the game with a solid first game. Dylan Huss shined brightest amongst all Wildcats with a marvelous opening score of 249. Huss tallied six consecutive strikes and finished things off with a perfect 3-strike 10th frame. Huss had to exit last week early, so for him to come back and enjoy such a great game was huge.
Beyond Huss, the Wildcats saw some solid scores, but nothing above a 183. In the first game, the Alley Cats rolled a 9 on 13 throws. The Clevelanders converted on 11 of those 1-pin spares, but missing strikes early cost the Wildcats some. The men of Jim Viets tallied an 896 as a team, about 100 pins behind the sixth-place squad.
Saint Ignatius improved slightly in Game 2. Sean Ward provided much of the enthusiasm, continuing his hot streak after completing Game 1 with a turkey. Huss again stood out, clipping a 215 in his second stanza. Alex Madeja and Noah Virant also stayed hot with good Game 2's.
As a team, the Wildcats finished with a 905. A very good score, but not enough to make up much ground on the top teams averaging over 1,000 pins per game.
In the third game, the Wildcats began to scuffle. Strikes became fewer and spares turned into opens. The oil pattern seemed to hurt the Wildcats, and the early energy seemed to escape. Ward and Ryan Wallenhorst enjoyed some nice moments, but as a team, the Wildcats struggled. They completed the third game with a 779.
Trailing big, the Wildcats utilized some young talent in the bakers, such as Robbie Shepherd and Alex Vacca. The Alley Cats broke out in the first baker for a score of 202, one of the best amongst the whole field. With the seniors leading the way, the Wildcats notched another solid score in the second at 178 and then another 178 in the third.
Viets' army stayed consistent in the third with a 179, and didn't slow down in the fourth with a 184. In the sixth and final baker, the Wildcats took a slight step back with a 167.
Overall, the Wildcats finished with a total pinfall of 3,668. That tally placed Saint Ignatius in 15th out of 20 teams, about 200 shy of the sixth and final State qualifying spot. Even without the ticket to the State Tournament, the Wildcats have plenty to be proud of.
This resilient bunch peaked at the right time. While other teams excelled more during the regular season, the Wildcats pulled out an outstanding performance at the Sectional Tournament. The Alley Cats proved to be clutch at the right moment.
And just as importantly, they had fun as a team. This group made plenty of memories together and will always be friends. That's something that a medal can't give you. Seniors Alex Madeja and Noah Virant will certainly be missed.
The Wildcats will be back next year. And with plenty of young talent in the pipeline, the future is bright.