It did not take long for the Rhinelander area club bowling teams to experience the highs and lows of the new all-or-nothing dual meet format the Wisconsin High School Bowling Club is using to determine its team standings this year.
The Hodag boys and girls were on opposite ends of a pair of close matches Sunday at Dale's Weston Lanes as both squads split their first two District 9 matches of the season.
After a 9-0 sweep of the Wittenberg boys' in the first match, the Hodag boys' lost a narrow match 5-4 to Iola-Scandinavia in Sunday's second round. The Hodag girls' suffered a 6-3 loss to Antigo in the opening match, but edged Wittenberg's girls 5-4 in the second match.
In years past, the team would have scored a point for each game that it won, counting toward the year-long standings - which didn't have much bearing except for some extra scholarship money for the teams in the district with the best records at the end of the year. However, this year the end result was a 1-1 day for both squads as those overall conference standings now determine which teams will make the WiHSBC state meet in March.
"With this new format, coming home and saying, 'Well we got four (out of nine).' It's not bad, it's one game off but we get no points and you look at the bottom line," coach Mike Bourcier said.
The harsh reality of the new format bit the Rhinelander/Three Lakes boys' squad in its second match on Sunday. The Hodags averaged nearly 180 pins per game, knocked down only 22 fewer pins in the nine-game series than Iola-Scandinavia, yet walked away with no conference points thanks to a 5-4 defeat.
Two of Iola's wins came by four pins or less. Rhinelander had two single-pin spare misses in Game 1 and lost 182-181 when Iola threw a strike on its last ball of the 10th frame. In Game 4, Rhinelander anchor bowler Calvin Schneider needed a strike on his second ball of the 10th frame, but came up with an 8-count and the Hodags lost 179-175.
The Hodags won the next two games 181-171, 234-179 to tie the match at three, but Iola responded with its two best games of the series - a 205-162 win in Game 7 and a 212-178 win in Game 8 - to clinch the match.
"I think we should have won that second match, just execution faltered a little bit," Bourcier said. "We only lost by 22 pins. We won four games out of nine, but yet, it's a loss. That is something different with the new format. We've just got to live with it. That's how it's going to happen this year."
The Hodags had no trouble with a Wittenberg boys' squad that was missing a bowler in the first match. With the way Rhinelander bowled, it wouldn't have mattered. The Hodags broke 200 in each of their first four games, averaged 199 overall and easily swept the nine-game match.
Rhinelander's five bowlers filled 70 of the 90 frames in that match and had a high score of 236 in Game 3.
"I felt confident about this weekend. We had practice on Friday and had the lanes oiled with the shot that we were going to be bowling on," Bourcier said. "I got them all lined up on Friday night that I felt comfortable with. We had a pretty good look at what we were going at.
"Our guys were doing real good and it just kept building."
Rhinelander got big performances from its two anchor bowlers - Schneider and Kody Litzen. Both filled 33 of their 36 frames on the day - a 93 percent clip. Schneider finished with 22 strikes while Litzen had 18.
"Calvin, all the way down to the last frame (of the first match), he had one more (fill) for a clean day. He got a little slow, it hooked up and left him a split. He bowled well," Bourcier said. "Kody Litzen was bowling well, just a couple of hiccups. He was picking up his corner pins, which was good. He's been working on them and it showed. He's doing real good on that part."
Jeremiah Braun had 26 fills and 11 strikes in 36 frames, Eric Jones had 25 fills and 11 strikes and Cody Bednarz finished with 23 fills and 17 strikes.
"I'm impressed with Eric. His first outing was nine opens and now he's got 11 for two (matches)," Bourcier said. "He's showing improvement. Jeremiah struggled the first half on the oil but he's one of the few lefties, so his shot broke down a little better for him and he was picking his spares up. Cody B. struggled a little bit on the last match but, overall, I was happy with them."
The Rhinelander/Elcho girls were on the other side of the coin in a close match against Wittenberg. The Chargers actually knocked down 17 more pins than the Hodags did in the match, but Rhinelander pulled off the 5-4 victory for the full point.
The Hodags clinched it with their best score of the second match, a 190-139 win in Game 8.
The girls' scores had a little more variation than the boys. Rhinelander had a pair of 190 games in the second match, but also a trio of 128s. Tied at two games apiece, the Hodags took control with a 165-125 win in Game 5 and a narrow 159-158 win in Game 6 clinched when anchor bowler Katrina Balsius rolled a strike following a spare on her final ball of the 10th frame.
Wittenberg took Game 7 171-150, but the Hodags clinched the match in the eighth game as the team marked in the final seven frames of the game.
"It's a good feeling to win the match," Bourcier said.
The Hodags were unable to defeat Antigo's girls' squad in the first match. Rhinelander struggled to a 99 in the opening game and then jumped up to a 196 with nine strikes in the second, only to lose to Antigo by two pins. The Robins took the first three games of the match before the Hodags eked out 148-147 win in Game 4 and then rolled their best game of the day to take Game 5 207-161 to close within 3-2 in the match. Antigo responded with a 212-131 win in Game 6 and clinched the match with a 161-114 win in Game 7.
"Game 5 they had a great game, a lot of strikes in there, shot the 207," Bourcier said. "Still it was a roller coaster, a lot of great games and then you got a few lower games. Overall, 151 (average), we're up about 12-13 pins from the first week. You're talking up over a mark a game."
Blasius and Mackenzie Bourcier led the way for the Hodag girls on Sunday. Blasius finished 30 of 36 on the day with 15 strikes while Bourcier was 29 of 26 with 14 strikes. Bella Walkowski and Alexis Kriesel each had 21 fills with 13 and nine strikes, respectively. Paige Bailey had seven fills and one strike.
"Katrina finished strong with a lot of strikes," coach Bourcier said. "She was rolling the ball well. Her there opens were three 7-pins that she missed. That's here nemesis pin that we've been working on."
The Rhinelander middle school team was not able to close out a 4-2 match lead as it lost 5-4 to Wittenberg Gold Sunday afternoon. Wittenberg edged Rhinelander 136-124 in the seventh game and then bowled its best two games in succession - a 162-129 win in Game 8 and a 157-123 win in Game 9 - to take the match.
"The other team bowled well and we bowled OK," coach Bourcier said. "Overall, they had good spirits. We've just got to keep working on it. Their first win will come sooner than later. They're getting better and showing improvement."
Rhinelander came out of the gate with its best game of the day, a 153-127 win in the opener. Tied 2-2 after four games, the Hodags used 149-122 and 132-116 wins in the fifth and sixth games to take a 4-2 lead.
Johanna Dellenbach and Calvin Welch each filled 14 of 18 frames for Rhinelander. Welch had seven strikes and Dellenbach had four.
"Johanna was awesome, only four opens on the day, so was Calvin. They were picking their spares up, making some good throws in there," Bourcier said.
Alex Hall finished with 10 fills and a strike. Payton McCue and Blake Klingen each had five fills and a strike as the Hodags dropped to 0-2 in the middle school standings.
The high school keglers will take a break from competition over the Thanksgiving holiday and will return to action with a non-conference match at Resch Lanes in Wittenberg Sunday, Dec. 8. The next matches that will count toward the District 9 team standings take place Dec. 15 in Merrill.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce