Defending a district championship in any sport is always a tough task.
But that’s the plan for Island Coast boys and girls bowling coach Brian Jones.
He’ll experience that expectation for both teams in 2016 after his Gators boys team defeated reigning district champion Fort Myers a season ago and his girls team continued its run of dominance by taking down South Fort Myers.
While both teams fell in the first round of the state tournament in Orlando a year ago, Jones should feel confident in both teams’ chances to return in 2016. The Gator girls return all participants from the LCAC championships, including the top three individual performers at the district meet.
Kyndall and Kaylee Snyder bowled games of 561 and 535, respectively, and MiKayla Simer registered a 522.
The depth within the roster for the Gator girls should be valuable again this season as Ellen Dickman, Ashley Sloat, and Sunnie Roberts all return for Island Coast.
The Gator boys team will have to fill in the loss of Tyler Plourde, who won the LCAC individual title with a 673. Three returners include sophomore Nick Larsen and junior Wyatt Smith, each recording top ten finishes individually in the district meet.
Jones expects fellow returners Larry Hudson and TJ Tajakowski and newcomers Tyler Macfee and Matt McCullough to contribute throughout the season.
“The nice thing about our program since we began it at Island Coast is that everyone has competed against each other before they’ve reached the high school level,” Jones said. “Team chemistry has always been a strength of ours with both teams, and it certainly helps our program.”
Jones likes to mix up team practices by having the boys and girls compete against each other in order.
“We like to keep things interesting for the kids,” Jones said. “It’s a great way to build your teams’ confidence and keeping it fun for everyone.
The runner-ups in the LCAC championship meet from a year ago sustained heavy losses due to graduation.
The Fort Myers boys program graduated eight and the South Fort Myers girls program lost three seniors. Nonetheless, Jones knows backing up the success from a year ago won’t be easy.
“There’s a lot of good teams all across the county,” he said. “There’s a lot of familiarity among the kids. Repeating will be difficult for both teams. We’re hopeful we can get back to Orlando again this season.” Jones said.
Contenders: Island Coast, South Fort Myers, Mariner, North Fort Myers
Sleepers: Fort Myers, Cypress Lake, Ida Baker
Athletes to watch: Kyndall Snyder (Island Coast), Kaylee Synder (Island Coast), MiKayla Simer (Island Coast), Loren Bellantoni (North Fort Myers), Liz Nargi (Fort Myers), Tiffany Campbell (Mariner), Sydney Campbell (Mariner), McKenzie Dahmen (Cypress Lake), Sophie Forker (Estero)
Outlook: Island Coast is the team to beat with all its returners back. Loren Bellantoni returns for North Fort Myers, which is looking to back up a strong LCAC runner-up campaign. Mariner hopes Juniper Dryden can provide a boost after not competing last season. Fort Myers is rebuilding after losing four seniors from a year ago. Cypress Lake has a young roster looking to improve from last season.
Contenders: Island Coast, Fort Myers, Mariner, Ida Baker, Cape Coral
Sleepers: North Fort Myers, Riverdale, Cypress Lake
Athletes to watch: Nick Larsen (Island Coast), Wyatt Smith (Island Coast), Larry Hudson (Island Coast), TJ Tajakowski (Island Coast), Tyler Macfee (Island Coast), Matt McCullough (Island Coast), Corbett Raker (Cypress Lake), James McIver (Fort Myers), Jayme Kenyon (Mariner), Tomas Hernandez (Mariner), Cameron Lucier (Estero)
Outlook: With two headliners in Larsen and Smith, Island Coast are favorites again. Fort Myers replaces all its contributors from a year ago and will be rebuilding. Mariner hopes to continue to build off a solid year with most of the roster back from a year ago. Raker was an individual qualifier for state and leads a young Cypress Lake team.