By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa High bowling teams will kick off their seasons when they play host to Dowling at 2:30 p.m. Monday at Champion Bowl.
The Maroon boys' and girls' teams will be hungry for revenge after they lost their season-openers to Ottumwa in Des Moines last season. Then freshman Bailey Palmer made an impressive debut that day, rolling a team-high average of 234 to help the Bulldog girls hammer Dowling 2,824-2,034. Meanwhile, Austin Palmer served as the boys' bellwether leader, bowling a team-best average of 218 to help the Bulldogs triumph over the Maroons 2,830 to 2,696.
If it wants gain a measure of revenge against Ottumwa's renowned programs, Dowling will have to do it against two teams made up of many of the same players they faced last season. Other than Sierra Lennie and Michaela Malloy, the Ottumwa girls will return the core nucleus of last year's squad.
Bailey Palmer will try to follow up on her stupendous freshman season with an equally remarkable sophomore campaign. Not only did Palmer notch the top individual average overall at the CIML Metro Conference 7 championship and at the state qualifying meet, she also rolled the fifth-best individual average at the Iowa Class 2A State Championship.
Palmer, however, is far from the only talented bowler to return to this season's team; the Bulldogs roster is ornamented by high-caliber bowlers. The seniors that will return to the team include Lynissa Lasley, Payton Wilbanks, Kourtney Longaker, Cybil Lennie and Courtney Smith. Lasley, Wilbanks and Lennie all enjoyed a considerable amount of success at the varsity level last season. Another bowler who will play a vital role on this season's team is Cheyenne Starr.
If what Ottumwa bowling coach Doug Techel wanted to see in this first dual could be encapsulated into one word it would be consistency.
"What we don't want to see is a really high score and a really low score," Techel said. "We don't want to see a nice 200 game, then that girl turns around and shoots a 130. We don't want to see that, we want to see something really consistent."
Techel noted how quickly the start of the season approached this year.
"It seems like this meet is earlier than we've ever had," he said. "Usually we don't have our first meet until December so this meet came up quicker than usual."
Though the girls' team, with its senior-heavy makeup and its sophomore prodigy, looks impressive on paper, Techel said there is always room for improvement.
"I think in the state tournament we missed 26 spares, the coach said, "if we pick up half those spares we win. The girls will know from experience how important each pin is near the end of the year.
"Everything will be a building block to substate and hopefully the state tournament."
Meanwhile, boys will try to build on an impressive season that was defined by steady improvement — improvement that reached a crescendo when Ottumwa took second overall at the state tournament. While the boys will miss senior graduates Isaac Goodman and their inspirational leader Anthony Roberts, the majority of the bowlers who made up the crux of last year's team will return. Aside from Palmer, Joey Lee, Jordan Mitchell and Braxton Coble — who all made important contributions to last season's success — will all be back this season.
"Braxton and Austin will have to be the leaders just based on their experience," Ottumwa bowling coach Brett Salter previously said.
Coble was the only Bulldog to crack the top 10 individual scores at the state meet. In addition, Mitchell rolled a 222 average at the state qualifying meet, which was good enough to garner him a third-place finish overall.
"We're young, so we need to be constantly improving," Salter said. "Our goal is always to reach state. I think it's reachable."
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