By Dan Hiner
For Chelsea Gilliam, the head coach of the Youngstown State University bowling team, the season has been a success to this point in the season. The bowling team has reached the end of its fall schedule and has participated in the first three tournaments in program history.
Gilliam said the Penguins have done well for a first year program. Despite having wins over programs like preseason top-10 Sam Houston State University, she said the players still have improvements that need to be made if they want to continue their success in the second half of the season.
“Everyone’s been super supportive around campus. [Everyone’s] like ‘you’re doing great.’ I’m kinda in the middle,” Gilliam said. “We’re doing great for a first-year program, but I don’t want that to become an excuse of ‘OK, we’re good right where we’re at.’”
The last tournament YSU participated in was the Kat Klash at Sam Houston State. YSU finished 10th out of 17 teams. Freshman Nikki Mendez was the top bowler for the Penguins and finished 17th in the individual standings with a score of 199.80.
“I think with our last tournament, we did well, but we didn’t do as well,” Mendez said. “Our first two days were OK, and the last day we finally showed what we could do. I think that was an eye opener, and I think that set the tone that we can’t get too high or too low. We need to be level headed and clear ourselves after each match and move onto the next one.”
Freshman Rachel Darrow and Mendez agreed the biggest improvement the team needs to make is picking up its spares. Mendez said if the Penguins can start to pick up more spares in their matches, then the players will start performing up to their own expectations.
“I would say for a first-year program, [we’ve] done well,” Mendez said. “Obviously, there’s ways that we can improve, but it’s gonna take a lot of work, like anything does, but we have enough talent and enough motivation to achieve our goals for next year.”
The Penguins don’t play again until Jan. 20 at the KU Invitational in Reading, Pennsylvania. The tournament will be hosted by the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.
Darrow said the winter break couldn’t have come at a better time. She said the break will allow the Penguins to improve heading into the more difficult portion of their schedule and correct issues like picking up spares.
“We are very strong, not that we’ve reached our full potential yet, but we’re this close,” Darrow said. “We know that we can do so much more. We just haven’t gotten there yet. I feel like with the practice in our off time, it will kinda boost us up to help us push through the rest of our season.”
Gilliam said the tournament will be one of the largest tournaments on the schedule this season and expects YSU to be tested in the first tournament of the winter schedule.
Gilliam said the team has traveled with six freshmen and two sophomores to every event this season. She said the team has built confidence after every tournament and the results have somewhat exceeded her expectations.
“I knew the talent I brought in was here, and they could be that competitive as long as they can believe in themselves. I think they did surprise me,” Gilliam said. “The very first tournament for example, I told them that I wanted to be [in] the top 10 — in the top half — and we were sixth both days. So they exceeded my expectations, which is amazing, and I’m very happy about that.
“I’m just hopeful we could keep that going, because we’ll see all these ranked teams even more in the spring,” Gilliam added. “Hopefully the next time we see them, we’ll be an even better team and be more even more competitive with them and open their eyes even more. Even though we’re young, we’re here. We want it just as bad.”