Walking through Marysville’s hallways, the bowling team can go unnoticed some days.
They’re not as big as the football team. They don’t get the same recognition as basketball or wrestling does in the winter. Most students wouldn’t look at the bowling photo and say “that’s the look of a champion.”
Their team might not be noticed all too much in school, but at the bowling alleys, they strike a winning presence.
“I don’t think a lot of the school kids know (how good we are),” senior Brandon Armstead said. “But other bowlers know.”
How good, exactly?
Last year the Vikings went 12-0 in the MAC Gold, and they went 14-0 in this year’s encore performance. They won last year’s regional title and rolled to the Division 2 state runner-up trophy. This year the Vikings also are on the brink of heading back to the state meet, as they are ranked the No. 1 team in Division 2 by the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches Association.
This year’s undefeated MAC Gold season was so dominant, the Vikings won 12 dual matches by at least 17 points. There are only 30 points a team can get in a match.
Yeah, not many teams look forward to facing them.
So, other than blasting strikes and having the finesse to pick up spares, what’s the secret to hardly ever losing?
“The teamwork,” head coach Debbie Lietzow said. “Everybody working together, everybody picking each other up and everybody staying positive.”
In team Baker games — where five bowlers take turns rolling a frame — the teamwork is a little more visible. In one-on-one matches, however, the teamwork looks like it can be brought out of the individualistic game. Except when you have the youth Marysville has, the team needs to constantly be helping each other in between shots.
“I just want to keep the freshmen calm, because they’re getting excited with how good we’re moving,” senior Tyler Fields said. “I don’t want them to get too excited and not bowl as good as they’re capable of.”
Last year’s team had three seniors and two juniors. This year the team’s age has been dialed back, as they have two seniors and three freshmen.
The two seniors, Fields and Brandon Armstead, are still the rocks of the team. Junior Justin Badley has been a machine this year for Marysville, too, rolling the division’s highest game of the season at 289.
Of course, Marysville’s Fields and Badley both met in the division’s individual championship. Badley got the best of his senior teammate, beating him 259-236 in the finals.
Fields, who sports a 209 average, is the anchor of the team, meaning he is the last to roll in the team Baker games and goes up against the opposition’s top bowler every meet. Not only does his pinfall say he’s among the best, but it’s his love for the pressure-filled moments that help propel Marysville to the top.
“I love the pressure, and I love clutch moments,” Fields said. “All I need is our team to give me a chance to win, and I’ll come through with the pressure.”
That’s not being cocky — that’s being honest.
Every dual meet has two Baker games, and in the final meet of the season, New Haven won the first. It looked like the Vikings were going to lose the second game, too, unless Fields rolled a trio of strikes in the 10th game.
Well, he knocked down the turkey, and Marysville won by one pin.
Marysville did have one close call against Clintondale last month, needing a roll-off to break the 15-15 tie. However, if Fields didn’t get a strike in the final frame of the meet, Marysville wouldn’t have been able to go to bowling’s version of overtime.
When regionals start up at the end of the month, Fields and the Vikings will be put right back into the pressure cooker.
Five of the state’s top 10 are in their regional, and only the top three teams make the cut to states. If the Vikings take another first-place title to extend their hardware collection, maybe they’ll find a little bit more recognition for their striking dominance.
Then again, maybe winning while flying under the radar isn’t the worst fate in the world.
“Less recognition lets us work harder to get recognized,” Fields said. “We also don’t have all this weight on our shoulders, and we just go out and have more fun.”
Contact Matt Sheehan at (810)-989-6267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @Sheehan_Sports.