Girls Bowling: Morgan Flaherty wins Lincoln-Way West’s first title, Andrew claims team crown
Updated: February 11, 2012 5:57PM
ROCKFORD — Saturday was a watershed day for Lincoln-Way West.
The New Lenox school, which opened in 2009, is in only its third year of existence but has already produced an individual state champion.
Junior Morgan Flaherty became the first athlete in school history to win a state title with a dominating performance at the girls bowling state finals at Cherry Bowl Lanes. Flaherty led wire-to-wire Saturday and finished with a two-day total of 2,764 pins (230.3 average). It was the third-highest score in the 40-year history of the state finals and 80 pins better than runner-up Nicole Powell of Sandburg.
“I don’t really know how to put it but it’s exciting because we’ve had some good guy bowlers, too, and I’m the first to even make it down to state,” Flaherty said. “Everything that I worked on this season, it all paid off.”
Flaherty, who was making her state finals debut, did it by not paying attention to where she was in the standings. She entered the day with a 32-pin lead over Joliet West sophomore Julianne Kowalski, who finished fourth with 2,666, five pins behind Leyden sophomore Reba Hall. She is usually “an emotional wreck” at tournaments, but not this time.
“Finally I just focused on bowling and bowled how I know how to bowl,” Flaherty said. “I didn’t worry about anyone who was in front of me or behind me. I usually am worried about that at tournaments.
“I waited until the end to see the standings yesterday and when I found out I was in first, I didn’t get too excited because I had another six games to bowl today. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and then not bowl good because I was so excited, so I just tried to stay calm and focus again today and it was a great day.”
Flaherty’s calm approach impressed Lincoln-Way West coach Scott Jablonski.
“She has some rough times because she knows she’s an excellent bowler,” Jablonski said. “Sometimes she lets the emotions get in front of her a little bit, but we worked on focusing her on her game. I told her, ‘I’ll keep you lined up, just commit to your shot and everything will fall into place.’
“Morgan just topped off a wonderful year. For her to do what she did today made coaching easy. She will never be forgotten.”
Flaherty wasn’t the only one who secured a place in their school’s history. Andrew proved their first-place performance on Friday was no fluke and captured its first state team championship with a 12,349 pinfall, holding off Minooka by 22 pins. Waubonsie Valley was third, 125 pins back and Oswego East took fourth, 177 behind.
“We really stayed focused,” said Andrew senior Ashley Stefanski, who led the Thunderbolts with a fifth-place 2,656. “We really came together as a team and had a lot of energy. We cheered for each other.”
Andrew is just the second school to win state titles in both boys and girls bowling and the first school to do it in the same season. The Andrew boys won their third crown just two weeks ago.
“It gave us a lot of incentive,” Stefanski said. “We wanted to be up there with them. That really just pushed us.
“It means the world to me. I’m really proud to have worked with all these girls.”
Andrew received strong performances from juniors Nicole Zopf (16th, 2,561) and Cassie Boat (25th, 2,506) and senior Jenny Halls (68th, 2,271).
“Our goal was to make it to state and make it to the second day,” Andrew coach Julie DeChene said. “To take first place was an unexpected surprise. The girls did great. They just had a fantastic day yesterday and then to hang in there today and turn it on, I’m very proud of them.”
Senior Courtney Johnston led Minooka, which achieved its highest finish ever, by taking seventh with 2,631. Junior Charley Barbary placed 15th with 2,562 to lead Waubonsie Valley, which equaled its best showing. Junior Giselle Poss paced Oswego East with an 11th-place 2,612.