By Mark Jurgena
For months coach Sean Hay and his girls bowling team worried, wondered, and hoped for some type of season during the 2020-21 academic year.
With almost everyone returning from a team that finished fifth at the IHSA state tournament last year, they were looking to make history.
When the IHSA finally announced there would be a season, but without a postseason, these girls found a different way to leave their mark.
On March 12th they put the finishing touches on the first perfect season in Kahok bowling history when they rolled over the best competition central and southern Illinois had to offer at the Southern Shootout finals at Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville.
“I was happy to have a veteran group in a season that was so different,” coach Sean Hay said. “A lot of times when you change things up there’s a lot of excuses and things like that. This group just came and did their job.”
CHS totaled a 6033 over the six games and far outdistanced 2nd place Salem by 525 pins. Mascoutah placed third with a 5493.
Individually, Cassidy Stewart of Collinsville fired 1286 for the afternoon which gave her 3rd place in the tourney. She finished 22 pins behind Shootout winner Lauren Hunter of Freeburg.
She also had the high game of the day for CHS with a 238. She added games of 236, 232, and 225.
“Over the last few years she’s been working her tail off,” said Hay. “I would argue that she might be the hardest worker on the team. She gets after it. But this year, all of a sudden, she started scoring. With a senior-heavy team for a junior to step up and take charge that was pretty cool. I’m really happy to see her bowling like she’s capable of.”
Brandy Stewart totaled 1249 good enough for a 4th place finish at the event.
She rolled her high game of the day in her sixth and final one. She came through with a 237 which allowed her to vault Olivia Paulson of Salem. She also rolled a 226 and three 223 games. Those scores came after a 140 to begin the day.
“Brandy is a unique individual in that you can’t ever tell what’s going on,” Hay said. “She’s one of those ice-cold players where you watch her bowl and you don’t know if she’s bowling the best of her life or the worst. Her composure is unbelievable really.
“You know that she’s never out of it mentally. Someone bowls a 140, you generally pull her because that’s just not going to make it. But with her, it wasn’t even a question whether or not she was staying in.”
Ashleigh Thilman finished in 6th place with a 1205 score while Caitlyn Ennis garnered a 10th place finish with 1177.
Thilman had a high game of 221 and added games of 215 and 214.
“She’s bullheaded, is the best way to describe her,” Hay said with a laugh. “Constant, constant, constant effort. She will have moments where she will fall off and she’s one that you’ll see practicing after matches and stuff like that to try to improve things. She’s been awesome to have on this team all four years.”
Ennis had a 225 game, a 213, and a 203.
“She worked for two years just to get her ball weight up to where it could be competitive,” Hay said. “All the while working on her form and correcting problems that come from trying to throw the ball hard when you’re smaller. There were a lot of ingrained things that we had to work on. I will tell you from a coaching standpoint, she probably bought in the most when it came to realizing that the changes we were making weren’t necessarily going to show up on her score yet. She totally, 100% believed.”
Sophie Tottleben tossed a high game of 226 while Courtney Baer had a high game of 202.
Freeburg placed fourth at 5429 and Triad finished fifth with a 5413.
For Triad, Brylee Proffitt finished in 8th place at 1185 while Alaina Burrelsman placed 12th with 1162.
Rose Beyer and Karsyn Braasch of Triad finished in 22nd and 23rd place. Beyer rolled a 1082 and Braasch finished with 1049.
Southern Shootout Qualifier
On March 8th, the girls qualified for the Southern Shootout finals by sweeping through the North Metro portion of the tournament with a team total of 3826 at Camelot Bowl.
Triad placed second with a total of 3494 while Highland came in third at 3167. All three squads qualified for the finals.
Individually, Collinsville had two of the three top individuals in the event.
Sophie Tottleben finished in 1st place with a four-game series of 871. She had a high game of 236. She also owned a 231 and a 207 on the afternoon.
B. Stewart placed third with a four-game set of 824. Her high game for the day was a 232. She added a 212 as well.
“It was awesome to see not only our girls win but also Sophie and Brandy medal,” said Hay. “This was Sophie’s first tournament win in high school and I see her confidence growing daily. She has worked hard, been patient, and is really throwing a great ball.”
Thilman rolled a 758 series with 199 being her high game, while C. Stewart fired a 739 series. She rolled a 223 and a 202 for her highest games.
Triad’s Karson Braasch finished in 2nd place overall with an 848 series over her four games.
Regular Season Finish
The girls traveled to Edison’s in Edwardsville on March 10th to take on the Tigers and came back with a 38-2 win and an undefeated conference season.
While they shot well all day, they saved their best for the last game. That game they combined for a 1097 series. Four Kahoks rolled games above 200 to finish out the afternoon.
B. Stewart led the way with a 268 followed by Tottleben at 236, Thilman shot a 203, and C. Stewart came in at 202.
B. Stewart had a 224 in the second game as well. She finished with a 690 series.
Earlier in the match, Thilman had registered a 222, and a 217. C. Stewart shot a 203.
Belleville West was the Kahok opponent on March 9th and CHS won 39-1.
Tottleben fired the high score of the day for CHS with a 227 while B. Stewart fired a 224. C. Stewart had a 219.
Kahok Notes: This is the first season in Sean Hay’s 21-year tenure at CHS that one of his teams went through a season undefeated. They won all their matches, the COVID Challenge in Carterville, the Southern Shootout qualifier, and the Southern Shootout final. The JV team won all their matches as well.