It was a long offseason but Keystone endured and is now ready for redemption.
The Wildcats missed a 2018 Division II district berth when Coventry rallied from a 74-pin deficit through three regular games to edge them by two pins to take the third and final qualifying spot at the Medina Division II sectional.
It came down to the last of the six Baker matches, where the Comets outscored the Wildcats 171 to 164 to pull it out.
It denied Keystone its first district berth since the 2013-14 season and was a tough pill to swallow for the Wildcats – a disappointment that has led to major motivation this year.
All the right ingredients seem to be there for the Wildcats, who return their entire lineup, seniors Trinity Pfeifer and Amanda Cogar and sophomores McKayla Ortiz, Jessica Gerhardinger and Erin Yates.
Individually, Pfeifer and Cogar are returning district qualifiers, with Pfeifer earning a ticket last year and Cogar the year before.
“When we got first place at the North Shore Bowling Tournament for Division 2, we got it in our heads that we would then just move right on from sectionals to districts,” Pfeifer said. “I felt like we were more focused on our previous one (at conference), rather than trying harder at sectionals to get to districts.”
The Keystone girls crushed its Division 2 competition at the 2018 NSBC Tournament, finishing 252 pins in front of second-place Clearview (3,241-2,989).
The Wildcats were riding high, but then struggled at sectionals.
“We practically made it, but it was just those two pins,” Pfeifer said. “We need to remember to hammer on the good things and not to beat ourselves up over things like one missed spare.”
“I really hope that we are able to advance further than we did last year,” Cogar said. “Last year definitely taught us that spares matter. One spare can make or break the team. It definitely taught us that we need to hype each other up.
“I’m definitely working on my mechanics, things like my approach. I’m working on holding the ball down lower and slowing myself down on the approach to keep from pulling the ball. When it comes down closer to tournament time, we need to begin practicing on a sport-shot pattern earlier than we did last year. The oil pattern definitely affects the game.”
Ortiz led Keystone with a 178 average last year, followed by Cogar (160), Pfeifer (158), Gerhardinger (140) and Yates (121).
“Last year when we were in tournaments (at sectionals) we were watching other people play and kind of compared our scores,” Ortiz said. “It kind of beat us down a little bit. We didn’t really cheer each other on. We just gave each other small high fives. We didn’t boost each other up. If we can do that this year and focus more on our spares, we can obviously increase our game.”
Keystone coach Kevin Minnich is confident things will end differently for his team this time around.
“They’re level of understanding has gone way up,” said Minnich, who has coached Keystone along with Jerry Johnson for 14 seasons. “I think they’ve opened their minds. It’s complicated sometimes when you’re trying to explain the game because you think of it as a simple game. Those little intricacies and the spare shooting and staying calm are key.
“I’ve got a good group of girls, no doubt about it. They’re getting along fabulously. They’re picking each other up and it’s just happening. It’s not us telling them. I’m very confident where we should end up this year, just with the depth we have. We’ve got viable help if someone is struggling. I’m very excited.”
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or email@example.com.