KENT: The standards are high once again, but the Kent Roosevelt varsity boys bowling team is living up to its usual lofty aims so far this season.
As they roll downhill toward the end of their season and their final three regular-season matches, the Rough Riders stand at 8-3 overall and 5-2 in Portage Trail Conference competition.
With their three biggest competitors still on the schedule in the second round PTC competition, a ninth PTC title is very much within reach for coach Terry Adolph and her squad. After the first half of the season, Ravenna seized the lead for the PTC Metro Division with one league loss, but that lone defeat to Crestwood the day after Roosevelt dispatched of the Red Devils left the door open for the Rough Riders to creep back into the title race and the Rough Riders took advantage of that chance by winning their rematch with the Ravens last Friday.
Senior Brandon Klembus leads the way on the lanes with an average of 205 pins and is one of three seniors who comprise the backbone of the lineup. Although he is about five pins below his average from last season, Klembus is has been the top scorer consistently throughout the first 11 matches. Balance has been a key ingredient in the recipe of success for Roosevelt, as seniors Joey Swanson and Ben Langstaff are averaging 200 and 192 pins, respectively, both up about three pins per game from their 2011-12 averages.
However, Adolph points to the noteworthy scoring increases by the varsity squad's two seniors as an equally important factor in the team's winning ways. Chris Hoskin and Connor Crabbe have each made substantial leaps from their freshman year. For Hoskin, playing on the varsity last season provided important experience that has allowed him to settle in and be more consistent in his sophomore year.
The result has been a 19-pin increase in his scoring average, from 171 last season to 190 this year. Crabbe's tale has a slightly different slant, as he was a member of the junior varsity squad last season and has made the transition to full-time varsity starter in his second year of high school competition. His scores have increased more than any other member of the team, from 156 on the junior varsity team to 179 for the varsity.
Winning a share of the PTC crown will mean reversing losses to Ravenna and Coventry, both of whom defeated Roosevelt by narrow margins the first time around. The defeat to Coventry was an especially disconcerting one, as the match at Turkeyfoot Lanes by a score of 2,403-2,381 came with the Rough Riders and Comets struggling to keep their focus with the varsity girls' match between the two schools taking place on the next lane over.
"Sometimes we go into (bowling) centers and get into difficult situations. In this case, the girls were on the next lane over and usually there is a buffer there," Adolph explained. "Girls tend to do a lot more cheering during matches and there were a lot of things going on. They were right next to us, screaming and cheering, and it took us a while to get into a rhythm and know when to go so we rolled in between the noise."
Even with the noisy atmosphere, the match came down to the last baker match, with the Comets prevailing by 22 pins. The loss to Ravenna was even closer, as 12 pins separated the two arch rivals.
Ravenna won by a count of 2,445-2,433, giving the Ravens control of the PTC race before their loss to Crestwood reopened the door for Roosevelt.
"Ravenna is playing well and facing them, it's always a big rivalry and a really big match," Adolph said.
In addition to finishing off the regular season, the Rough Riders will also compete in two large tournaments before the sectional tournament officially begins the postseason. Their biggest tournament will be the Rootstown Invitational, with nearly every PTC team and other top area squads participating.
"There are usually about 20 boys and 20 girls teams. All of the PTC teams are there, along with Jackson, Hoban, Walsh, Stow and a lot the teams from Akron," Adolph added. "It's a good tune up and it helps the kids get tournament experience and learn how to be relaxed in that type of atmosphere."
As the schedule progresses to its final weeks, Adolph believes her team is gelling at precisely the right time. Initially, he believed it would be a rebuilding year after significant losses to graduation, but for a program with eight league titles and two second-place finishes in its 10 years with bowling as a varsity sport, the expectations are high no matter who graduates and who returns in a given year.
"At first it felt like a rebuilding season, mostly because of schedule, when we had four matches right before Christmas, two right after," Adolph continued. "But the team is gelling and coming together at the right time. We have quite a reputation. We know that we're the team to beat, the team everyone is gunning for and it raises that level of competition."
The question will be whether that level has been raised enough for another PTC crown and to advance the Rough Riders out of a loaded sectional tournament at Sky Lane Bowling in Garrettsville next month.