By Sarah Jaeger
Special for Second Half
WATERFORD – Friday’s Division 2 Bowling Finals at Century Lanes ended in a repeat for 2014, as both the Flint Kearsley girls and boys teams successfully repeated as MHSAA champions.
The Kearsley girls had to defeat a familiar foe, 2014 Finals runners-up Bay City Western.
"I thought this was déjà vu all over again," said Bay City Western senior Anna Kuehne, "but I kind of hoped the ending was different."
After losing three bowlers to graduation last year, Western welcome three new members to the roster including a senior bowling with the team for the first time and a junior who had never picked up a ball until six months ago.
The Warriors came out strong with their Baker games, and Kearsley soon found itself down 69 pins after the set.
"I knew they were good," said Kearsley coach Robert Ploof. "I knew they could put up some scores in their Baker games."
But the Hornets made each frame count and never gave up. "You just got to chip away," Ploof added. "They didn't worry about throwing strikes, just filling frames, and that's what we did and it paid off."
Kearsley was able to overcome the deficit and win 1242-1212.
"You got to give Bay City Western credit though, they gave us everything we could handle,” Ploof said. “They had us, they really did. They had us."
Junior Hannah Ploof led Kearsley during the final game with a score of 238 despite battling an injury to her foot. "She's kind of a mess right now. So for what she did out there, that's pretty amazing," said Robert Ploof, also her father.
"I iced it all day, and I tried not to think about it," Hannah said. "The last match it was more like my adrenaline kicked in, so I didn't feel it."
On the boys side, Western also was Kearsley’s championship match opponent – and the last obstacle keeping Kearsley from becoming the first Division 2 boys team to win back-to-back titles.
With close Baker matches of 160-152 and 173-168, the Western boys took the lead going into the regular game.
But experience in the Finals came in handy for the Hornets.
"We only lost one senior from last year," said Flint Kearsley coach Bart Rutledge, "so we had the same team coming back."
Not only was it primarily the same team from 2013-14, but most of the bowlers had been competing together for the last six years.
"Our school started middle school bowling," said Kearsley senior Anthony Kelly, "so we've been bowling together ever since seventh grade."
And for his last game with his teammates, Kelly rolled a 226, allowing Kearsley to edge Western, 1351-1344.
"To be completely honest, at the start of the year I didn't think we had it in us. And now that it's over I wouldn't change anything," Kelly said.
While Kearsley’s boys will have one lone bowler returning next season from their back-to-back championship teams, Bay City Western does not have a graduating senior.
They already have set their sights on the prize.
"It's not the result I wanted, but it's a lot farther than I thought we were going to make it," said Dylan Brown, a junior for Bay City Western.
"Next year I think it's ours," he added. "We're a young team, we really are. Next year we'll be a lot more mature."