Grand Haven senior Shamar Stailey said there's a good crop of young bowlers on the Bucs' varsity team, which he calls the “new blood of the program.”
Unfortunately, there's not enough of the “old guard” on the Bucs' roster like Stailey to help ease the team's growing pains.
Rockford exposed the Bucs' inexperience in both the boys and girls matches on Wednesday at Starlite Lanes in Grand Haven, handing each team a loss in their second conference dual of the season. The Rams defeated the boys, 26-4, while Rockford's girls romped to a 29-1 victory.
“There's a lot of new blood, kids who were really good as eighth graders last year,” Stailey said. “Hopefully they keeping stepping up big for us. The freshmen like Brennan Batka and Joel Collins, they're great at bowling and are only going to get better.”
Grand Haven boys' coach Pat Mitchell said his team has struggled so far this season in the Baker format, as Wednesday was no different, as the Rams jumped out to an early 10-0 lead by sweeping the available points in that format. The Rams easily outdistanced the Bucs in the final Baker score, 472-332.
Rockford continued to shine in the regular games, knocking down 1,025 pins in Game 1, including a 247 performance from Shane Gerow.
Grand Haven managed 919 and scored points thanks to a stellar 219 showing from Keith Reuterdahl, and a 208 effort from Zach Gargano — a player who stood out with his huge mop of curly black hair.
“We've got about seven kids right now who are all really close, which is OK,” said Mitchell. “We do a lot of different things for training, which helps build coordination and strength, so I'm anticipating we'll be able to turn things around as the season progresses.”
Steady progression is what Stailey has in mind, too. He didn't have his best stuff going on Wednesday as he rolled a 172 game.
“I'm hoping to finish out the year bowling consistently close to 300 or in the high 200s,” he said. “I hope to leave something for everyone to remember for years to come.”
The Bucs competed without Justin White, who rolled a 299 game last week but missed the match due to what Mitchell called “attendance issues.”
It was Reuterdahl and Gargano who scored the Bucs' lone points again in Game 2, although Batka could have easily made it three with a 202 game, but he was beat out by five pins by the Rams' David Miller. Gargano led the way with a 203, while Reuterdahl had a 190.
Grand Haven's girls squad has encouraging participation on their roster, but like the boys, lack many seasoned upperclassmen.
Although the Bucs were shut out in the Baker format, they battled tough, losing by a 318-256 margin.
Their lone point was scored in Game 2 of the regular format, thanks to a 152 game by Becca Hartwell.
The Bucs actually got a season-best 204 game from sophomore Taya VanderZwaag, but she bowled in a reserve roll, so it wasn't used in the team's score.
“This is actually my first year bowling,” she said. “I wanted to come out to meet new people and have fun. Everyone is really encouraging, even if you didn't do your best.”
VanderZwaag said she did her best by slowing down her approach and finding a sweet spot on the lane.
“Just slightly left of the middle,” she said.
Grand Haven is back on action on Monday, as it travels to face East Kentwood, then returns to Starlite on Wednesday with Grandville competing.