DeKALB – The DeKalb boys bowling team almost immediately chose to forget about it.
The Barbs didn’t want to hear about coming 18 pins shy of the program’s first trip to the state tournament last year. They wanted to focus on the present.
“We told our coach not to bring it up. It was kind of annoying,” junior Will Todtz said. “We put it behind us. It’s not really worth it to bring it up because it’s a new season.”
It’s been a new season, and certainly a better one for the Barbs, who, even after a slow start, captured the Northern Illinois Big 12 regular-season championship for the first time in the team’s three-year existence.
After the IHSA implemented a regional round to the bowling postseason for the first time in its history, the Barbs claimed the regional team championship last weekend, bowling a six-game series of 6,272 at Mardi Gras Lanes, their home track, to beat second-place Sycamore by 102 pins. Junior Michael Belluzzi claimed the individual title with a 1,383.
Now, both teams will look to advance to state at Saturday’s Rockford Boylan Catholic Sectional.
DeKalb had high expectations for this season after returning the five core members of its team. All of them have raised their averages and it has showed consistently in the team’s scoring. Their regional total, which DeKalb coach Ernie Pinne said included a couple of 130 games, was almost 400 pins higher than last year’s sectional pin count.
“We’ve had four different guys shoot over 700, and three of them have been over 700 three times in series,” Pinne said. “We’ve had games in the 270s, games in the 260s and games in the 250s, which we didn’t have a lot of that last year.
“That just shows that everybody has gotten a lot more consistent. The big thing is they’re picking up more spares.”
However, this year’s sectional will feature much better competition than last year, including six teams ranked in the top 15 by Illinoisbowling.net. With only four sectionals instead of eight like in previous years, the top six teams will advance to state.
Yet confidence remains high for a team that is a year more experienced. The Barbs went to the site of Saturday’s sectional – Park Lanes in Loves Park – to get a practice session in Wednesday.
They’ve bowled against, and beaten, some of the competition during the year, including taking two games and the series from No. 11 McHenry at home.
“If we could get downstate in our third year, I’d be really happy,” senior Seth Pinne said. “Especially my senior year, my last year, I’d be really happy if we got downstate.”