BATTLE CREEK — Joe Slaven had a good idea his girls bowling team could do something special in Friday’s Division 4 team championship at M-66 Bowl.
“I talked to our athletic director, and I told her I noticed we don’t have a trophy case,” he said. “She said, ‘If you win a state title, we’ll build you one.’”
As of Friday afternoon, Trillium AD Deanna Doede has another item on her to-do list after Trillium bested Beaverton 1,074-1,051 to win the school’s first state championship.
It wasn’t easy. After finishing first in qualifying, Trillium eked past Allen Park Cabrini by two pins, 1,016-1,014, to get to the final, and trailed Beaverton by 13 pins after Baker play.
The final was closely contested for six frames before it all came together.
“Their adrenaline kicked in for the first five frames of the final,” Slaven said. “But around the seventh frame, they settled in.”
Slaven had scheduled his team so it would be ready for tournament pressure.
“I got them in tournaments with Division 1 schools, and we won some of those tournaments, came in second. came in fourth. I wanted them to see the big picture, the big dance. and they showed up today.”
His daughter, Abbey, didn’t celebrate until the last pin fell.
“You never know in bowling,” she said. “We’ve been down a lot in other matches, or it seemed like it, and then we come back and perform our best. So you never really know in bowling.”
Joe Slaven, meanwhile, extols both his team’s talent, but also their demeanor.
“What I’m most proud of is, yes, we won a state championship, but I’m most proud of is the way they represent their school, and the way they represent themselves.” he said. “These girls are so coachable, so athletic, so smart.”
And likely to contend again, too: Most of Trillium’s bowlers should be back next year.
Alivia Schmer led Trillium with a 179, while Emily Yagley rolled a 172.
Ellie Minkin paced Beaverton with a 176.
If winning a title was a first for Trillium’s girls, it was more of the same for the Grass Lake boys, who won for the third time in four years Friday, defeating New Lothrop 1,253-1,123.
Grass Lake was the Division 4 runner-up last season, won the Division 3 title in 2021 and took the Division 4 crown in 2020.
And it’s not inconceivable to think they’ll be back next year, with just one senior on this season’s roster.
In fact, Warriors coach Jeff Wyers was so confident in his team’s overall talent that he gave sophomore Tyler Paul his first varsity start Friday.
“These kids work their butts off,” the fifth-year mentor said. “These kids, the camaraderie they have, they work together and they never give up. If one guy is off, the others pick him up. These guys are amazing.”
The Warriors had their challenges during the day, but won all three matches by comfortable margins, including the final, taking a 73-pin lead after Baker play and never looking back.
“It feels great knowing we have a buffer,” co-captain Cayden Dewitt said. “So if we miss, we miss. And (if) we win, it feels amazing.”
Grass Lake also has a strong team chemistry.
"Our coach does a really good job of projecting a good positive environment onto everything,” co-captain Brice Sandoval said. "Even in practice or just open bowling with no coaches, there’s good vibes, good energy, and we seem to turn it on when we need it most, and it works out for us.”
Sandoval led Grass Lake with a 198, while Dewitt rolled a 193. Cole Bradshaw led New Lothrop with a 204.
Over the last decade, media days have begun to emerge as a way for some of the state’s largest leagues to kick off their sports seasons. The Kensington Lakes Activities Association, for example, hosts them in a variety of sports.
To get this winter rolling, the KLAA for the first time added bowling to the list – highlighting one of its strongest but often less visible sports by welcoming bowlers and coaches from all 16 of the league’s schools Nov. 8 to Westland John Glenn.
The KLAA is one of the top bowling conferences in the state – a combined five teams made the MHSAA Team Finals last season for girls and boys, and Wayne Memorial’s boys won the Division 1 championship. That actually was the third season in a row that a KLAA team won Division 1 boys – Livonia Franklin was the champ in 2022 and Salem in 2021 – and Belleville’s girls finished Division 1 runners-up in 2021. Franklin and John Glenn both have produced a Division 1 singles champion over the last three seasons as well.
The media day celebrated that success – while looking ahead to possibilities for more to come this winter.
The event was organized by John Glenn athletic director Jason Malloy, the league’s commissioner for that sport (and also a member of the MHSAA Representative Council). Interviews and the video below were compiled by Westland John Glenn senior Lizzy Fall. Photos are by Olivia B. Photography.