Coach Mike Bourcier can't quite put his finger on why, but Resch Lanes in Wittenberg has always been a bit of a house of horrors for the Rhinelander area high school club bowling teams.
The pattern held true on Sunday in a WiHSBC District 9 non-conference match.
Both the Rhinelander/Three Lakes boys' and Rhinelander/Elcho girls' squads finished well below their averages and had off days in the second non-conference match of the season. The Hodag boys finished with a 148.0 average, nearly 39 pins of their pace to date, while the Hodags girls were more than 18 pins off their season average, at 130.2 pins per game.
"Wittenberg seems to have Hodag bowlers' numbers, when they put out anything other than their house shot," Bourcier said. "I don't want to use those excuses, but there is something about Wittenberg and Rhinelander bowlers, we have a tendency to struggle.
"It was one of them days. It was a frustrating day for the kids, frustrating day for us as coaches,too."
The Hodags bowled against themselves in the new, non-conference format. Though the results do not count in the team standings, individual statistics that determine which bowlers qualifier for the WiHSBC state meet in late February were kept.
The Rhinelander/Three Lakes boys started OK, with a 189 in Game 1 of the nine-game series followed by a 169 in Game 2, but the team failed to bowl better than a 155 game the rest of the way. The Rhinelander/Elcho girls, meanwhile, did not beat their season average until the last game, when they bowled a 165.
Bourcier said his team had trouble figuring out the oil pattern, which he described as "squirrelly." Adjustments to line and ball changes seemed to do little to solve the puzzle, he added.
"I think when the strikes weren't going and they weren't carrying very much, I don't know if they gave up, but you could tell it was a little downer," he said. "They got frustrated and when you get frustrated, you start throwing the ball differently ... It's a mental game and I think they mentally lost it a little bit."
Cody Bednarz had the best day for the Hodag boys, filling 15 of his 18 frames with seven strikes.
"I was impressed by Cody Bednarz, he had a good day - seven strikes, eight spares and three opens only," Bourcier said. "He missed some easy opens, but he had a line where he could play straight and it was holding and he did well. And he was picking his spares up."
Calvin Schneider, who entered the week No. 1 in the District 9 individual standings with a 92.3% fill rate, had five opens on the day, dropping him to 87.1% on the season. Kody Litzen, who was fifth at 88.5%, filled only 10 of his 18 frames to drop his season-long fill rate to an even 80%.
"It was tough, the strikes weren't falling down. They were hitting the pocket and it just kind of went downhill from there," Bourcier said.
Eric Jones had 11 fills and five strikes for the Hodag boys. Jeremiah Braun had six fills and four strikes.
Results were not much better on the girls' side. Junior Katrina Blasius was able to keep pace, filling 14 of her 18 frames to put her season-long fill rate at 81.9%. Bourcier said she fought through some hip discomfort that occurred during the match.
"The approaches were a little tacky, a little stickier and that plays a big key. When you have approaches that are either really slick, or tacky, they throw your timing off. Katrina stuck in Game 4, I think it was, and actually strained something," he said. "She fought through it. She ended up with four opens which, for her, was a good day. That's not going to drop her too far in the standings."
Mackenzie Bourcier struggled to nine opens in 18 frames as her season-long fill rate dropped from 79.6% to 75%. Bella Walkowski also had nine fills for Rhinelander. Paige Bailey had five fills and Alexis Kriesel and four fills.
Middler schoolers pick up first win
The highlight of the day for Rhinelander came on the middle school side where the Hodags picked up a 6-3 victory over Wittenberg in a middle school conference match.
Rhinelander averaged 132.2 pins for the day, filled 50% of its frames clinched the match with wins in the final two games.
"Overall, the middle schoolers, it was a good day for them," coach Bourcier said. "They got their first match win. They know what it's like to win now. They're getting better."
The Hodags squeaked out a trio of close wins to take a 3-0 lead in the match, defeating the Chargers 127-124, 132-121 and 139-136 in the first three games. Wittenberg turned the tables with close 137-130 and 126-117 wins in the next two games. Rhinelander moved to the brink of claiming the match with a 132-118 win in Game 6. Wittenberg took Game 7 126-119 before the Hodags clinched it Game 8 with a 118-90 win.
With the pressure off, the Hodags rolled one of their best games of the season to finish, taking Game 9 176-103.
"I switch the lineup and the kids go bonkers and shoot a 176 the last game," Bourcier said. "What it was, was they relaxed. The last game they relaxed and had a little more fun because they knew they won the match. It showed, 176."
Calvin Welch (14 fills, six strikes) and Johanna Dellenbach (11 fills, four strikes) led the way for Rhinelander. Payton McCue and Alex Hall each had seven fills and Blake Klingen and six fills.
"Calvin did really well, just four opens. Johanna with her seven opens was pretty good and the other three are right in there," Bourcier said. "I see a big improvement out of Blake. He's getting better. We see it in junior league, we see it in practice."
The Hodag bowlers will return to action this Sunday at Lincoln Lanes in Merrill.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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