Photo by Bill Roseberry
The Alton girls’ bowling team is (front, from left) Addison Beys, Chloe Greenberg and Ashley Heistand; (back, from left) Carley Heistand, Alex Bergin, Eryka Graham and Elizabeth Henke.
When the Alton High girls’ bowling team started its dual season with multiple victories, coach Jeff Woszczynski took the success in stride.
He knew the Redbirds had the right blend for a powerful season. They sported a 10-1 record prior to Thursday’s match with O’Fallon at Bowl Haven Lanes.
“It’s definitely not a surprise,” said Woszczynski, in the midst of his 15th season guiding the Redbirds. “I thought they would do well this season and have an opportunity to win a conference championship.”
Alton, which lost to Collinsville on Tuesday, won its first eight Southwestern Conference matches and the Redbirds are seeking to continue their success. They have league dates remaining with Granite City and Belleville West before bracing for the girls’ regional on Feb. 6 in Collinsville. The Johnston City Sectional at Southern Illinois Bowl in Carterville follows that action on Feb. 13, leading up to the state finals Feb. 19-20 at Cherry Bowl Lanes in Rockford.
“It’s a very good girls’ team and we have a chance to go undefeated in the conference,” Woszczynski said prior to this week’s play. “We’ve never done that, either with the girls or boys.”
Two-time AdVantage News Girls’ Bowler of the Year Eryka Graham spurs the Redbirds. Graham shot a score of 1,247 to finish second to Herrin’s Cassidy Ray, who had a 1,281 total, in the AHS Invitational on Dec. 23. She’s carrying a team-best 224 average.
“We work well as a team and have good communication. That’s really important,” said Graham, a senior.
She said the Redbirds are vigorously competing as a group and quietly developing their own brand of camaraderie.
“We are really close,” Graham said of their solidarity. “The thing about this team is that we have more depth.”
Graham’s leadership is a key component, according to Woszczynski. She added, “I’m definitely trying to get better and always looking to do my best; I want to go out on high note.”
Teammate Ashley Heistand displays the same attitude. She logged a 1,208 score for a sixth-place finish in the Alton Invite and combines forces with Graham to give the Redbirds a potent 1-2 punch. Heistand owns a 197 average.
“We’re trying to stick together as a team and we have a big goal this season,” Heistand said. “We want to go to state as a team.”
She pointed out, “I really like our team. I think we have a lot of potential and we all have a positive outlook.”
The Birds have compiled a 32-11 dual record the past three years. This winter, the plan is for more of a deeper postseason run.
“I think we are a little stronger this year,” Woszczynski said. “Team-wise, it might be the best team we’ve ever had.”
Elizabeth Hanke, Alex Bergin, Chloe Greenberg, Addison Beys, Claire Gorman and Carley Heistand are also contributing to the cause. Hanke sports a 173 average.
Following a slow start in their own tourney, the Redbirds rallied to finish sixth. Herrin won it by placing 172 pins ahead of Collinsville and Waterloo.
The AHS guys are participating Saturday in the 16-team Taylorville Regional. Civic Memorial, East Alton-Wood River and Roxana are also cast in that field, which plays at Spare Time Lanes in Decatur. The top teams and individuals advance to the Cahokia Sectional at Bel-Air Lanes in Belleville. The IHSA finals run Jan. 29-30 at St. Clair Bowl in O’Fallon.
“We’ve been trying a few different things with the boys’ team,” Woszczysnski said of the Redbirds, 5-8 overall and 4-7 in the SWC. “We’re a work in progress, but one of our goals is to do well in the postseason and quality for state.”
Tyler Stevenson, the Birds’ 11th-place finisher with a 1,238 score in the Alton Invite, has emerged as one of the boys’ leaders. He shot a 300 in Game 2 at Airport Plaza Bowl during the multi-school tournament and is averaging 197 for the season.
“It’s my first 300 game and the best I’ve ever bowled — by far,” Stevenson said afterward.
Woszczynski added, “He’s one of the key guys on our team.”
Chris Perkey, 25th in the Alton Invite, adds to the Redbirds’ talent. So do Nik Meggos, Jacob Donahue, Matt Engdale, Derek Henderson, Matt Fritz and Will Paisley. Fritz missed the Alton Invite because of an illness. The Redbirds shot a score of 5,599 to finish ninth.
Donahue has compiled a 207 average and Fritz possesses a 201 one. Henderson registered a 633 series in the Redbirds’ recent SWC win over Edwardsville.
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