CALUMET CITY | Coming into the season, first-year T.F. North coach Matt Pettiti knew it would be a rebuilding year.
The Meteors lost state qualifier Kadejah Stephens to graduation, but he thought the senior class would carry the load.
That hasn’t been the case so far. Heading into this weekend’s Brooks Regional, it has been the junior and freshman classes doing the dirty work for the Meteors.
“I’m not surprised because I knew what the juniors were capable of,” Pettiti said. “But at the same time, I didn’t expect the freshmen to step up and take the number four and five spots in the lineup.”
One of those freshmen, Capri Howard, has not only taken a spot on varsity. She has become a leader on the team, taking home All-South Suburban Blue honors at last week’s conference meet.
The other, Candice Redmon, has been a mainstay at the No. 4 slot all season and bowled a 975 series at the conference meet.
“Capri has been bowling her whole life,” Pettiti said. “She should take home a top 10 spot at both regionals and sectionals.”
Although some may expect a freshman bowling at the varsity level to be intimidated by upper classmen or wilt under the pressure, Howard is just the opposite.
“I don’t feel a big difference being on varsity,” Howard said. “If you just relax and bowl, you’ll get the result you need.”
Last week, she rebounded from a 131 first round to storm back into the top 10, eventually finishing with a 1,066 series and an eighth-place finish.
It’s not just Howard that has Pettiti excited about the Meteors' chances of advancing to the Morgan Park Sectional. The performance of a pair of juniors over the last few weeks also gives reason for optimism.
Brianna Montgomery and Maira Gutierrez both posted top 20 finishes at the conference meet and are hoping to build on that Saturday.
“We have a really good chance to advance,” Montgomery said. “The freshmen have been a big surprise, for them to be bowling the way they are on varsity is amazing.”
If the freshmen duo can pull off a repeat of last week and they can get another solid performance from Montgomery and Gutierrez, they will have a chance to make a run at the school’s first ever regional bowling championship.
“I’m pretty optimistic,” Pettiti said. “Given the way we’ve bowled the last few tournaments I don’t think a top four finish is a stretch. If we handle ourselves like we have all season we should be okay.”
Regardless of what happens Saturday, Pettiti and the Meteors know that things are heading in the right direction and that it’s only a matter of time before the goals change from advancing in the regional to winning it.
“As a first year coach you have a lot of questions but the dedication of this group was never one of them,” Pettiti said. “A lot of these girls are honors students but they never miss a practice or meet, if they can manage that then we have a good foundation.”