McPherson High has been a staple at the state bowling tournament since the Bullpups began their program in 2008 — a year they won the boys’ state title.
But last year the Bullpups did not advance either team to state for the first time ever. While they did qualify Carl Frazier and Bailey Holton as individuals, MHS coach Herb Halinski said it was disappointing to not get one of the teams to the grand stage.
What made it disappointing was that both teams had won league championships, but were fourth at the regionals.
But 2017 is a new year and while Frazier and Holton have graduated, Halinski is cautiously optimistic.
“This season will be an interesting one,” said Halinski, the only coach in the program’s history. “Converting spares will be the key to success for us this year. Spare conversion was a weakness last year, leading to teams not making state. The kids have the drive to make it back to state and I anticipate spare shooting to improve.”
Halinski said with a group that didn’t qualify for state, the mental aspect of the game will be given special attention.
“Our biggest weakness will be self-confidence,” he said. “I expect that to improve as we get bowling more. I am anticipating a good season on the boys’ side as we have a lot of experience and depth with a good JV squad. The girls will be young other than the two seniors without a lot of experience, but Alexis (Kieffer) and Ashley (LaSalle) will keep them motivated and help them out.”
Clayton Ouellette has been putting up monster numbers in the offseason and Halinski is counting on him, as well as Jeff Reed, to lead the way for the boys.
“Clayton Ouellette is a key player returning this year,” Halinski said. “He is a junior and has been doing a lot of offseason work to prepare for this season. Jeff Reed is a senior who has a mission to finish strong with our program as last year was the first time he hasn’t been to the state tournament. Also returning on the boys’ side are Talin Goebel, Kc Becker and Mathew Stiggins. They all attended a camp in Dallas over the summer at the Team USA training facility and gained valuable knowledge to improve their games.”
Freshman Taylor Miller is expected to make a push for the varsity.
“He has been around our high school program and bowled with a lot of the guys, so he knows about a lot of the things we do,” Halinksi said.
Kieffer and LaSalle will shoulder the load for the girls.
“The girls will be returning Alexis Kieffer and Ashley LaSalle as seniors,” Halinski said. “Alexis was on the state title team her freshman year and wants to get back to that level of performance. They have taken on leadership roles and want the team to be good. Maysan Groote is also returning, she also attended summer camp at the Team USA facility and learned a great deal to improve her game.”
MHS begins its season on Jan. 4 with a road match at Wichita Collegiate. The home opener is Jan. 6 against Andale and Cheney at Starlite Lanes.
• SCHEDULE •
Jan. 4 — at Wichita Collegiate
Jan. 6 — Home triangular vs. Cheney, Andale
Jan. 7 — at West Acres Bowling Classic, Wichita
Jan. 12 — at Augusta
Jan. 17 — vs. Circle at El Dorado
Jan. 19 — El Dorado
Jan. 27-28 — at Great Plains Invitational, Wichita (boys only on the 28th)
Feb. 2 — Mulvane
Feb. 9 — Triangular vs. Buhler, Salina Central at Hutchinson
Feb. 16 — League tournament, TBA
Feb. 24 — Regional, TBA
March 2 — State, TBA