Mount Carmel’s bowling team was an unknown commodity last year that may have overachieved in the postseason.
That’s not the story anymore.
With four returning seniors who bowled in last year's state finals, the Caravan are looking to do more than just advance to state this year.
“Last year, we had four juniors on the team and made it to state,” Mount Carmel senior Mike Stepanovic said. “No one expected us to do anything in the sectionals and we had a great day and advanced, but we were out of our comfort zone at state, now we have that experience and know what to expect.”
Stepanovic is joined by teammates Christian Whitaker, Jordan Elder, and Lorenzo Zamora, who are all primed and ready to make another run.
“Coming in, we were determined to go back down this season,” Zamora said. “I think we all want a repeat. We’ve been focused all season. We know we just have to keep working and keep going for it.”
Last year was a learning experience for a young Caravan team. Mount Carmel started strong in the first session of the finals and was within striking distance of the top 10 teams.
However, the afternoon wasn’t as kind. Whether it was the lane conditions or the pressure of bowling in the finals, the Caravan started to falter and finished 21st.
“There’s a lot of motivation after last year on a personal and a team level,” Stepanovic said. “To be right there in the morning last year (and not advance), I know we’re capable of more. We just can’t worry about what other teams are doing or any of that. We have to focus on ourselves and bowl like I know we can.”
The road to state begins Saturday with a trip to the Lindblom Regional at Blue Bird Lanes. Mount Carmel will be one of the favorites to advance to the sectional with its main competition coming from Chicago Catholic League rival St. Lawrence, a team the Caravan have already beaten twice this season.
The hardest thing this week may not be looking ahead to a loaded St. Patrick Sectional, which looks to be the strongest of the four sectional assignments.
“We had a tough week last week so we know not to take anything lightly,” Elder said. “We know what it takes to move on. That’s a plus for us. A lot of the competition doesn’t have that experience. It’s very exciting knowing we have an opportunity to go back this year.”
After finishing third last week at the Chicago Catholic League tournament, the Caravan know not to take anything for granted. Coach Steve Gorches is confident his team will bounce back this week.
“I’d be surprised if we weren’t one of the four teams to advance to the sectionals,” Gorches said. “But that sectional is tough. I wouldn’t be surprised if no one from the Catholic League advanced. It’s that good.”