LYNWOOD | Most people consider bowling an individual sport; a bowler, the ball, 63 feet of hardwood, and ten pins.
That would be wrong if they were talking about the T.F. South boys bowling team.
There will always be individual success, but for the Rebels it’s about more than individual achievements.
It’s about the five bowlers on match day, the coach that teaches, supports, and even drives the bus, and the parents who travel to every away match.
It takes all these pieces to be successful. With two state finals appearances under their belts, the Rebels have a chance for a third Saturday at the Andrew Sectional.
“This is a phenomenal group of kids,” T.F. South coach Eric Valiska said. “Our parental support is great. They come from great families that care about them and it shows, that support and it really helps us in meets.”
Coming into the season the Rebels goals were to win a South Suburban Blue Conference title and a return trip to the state finals.
They achieved the first two weeks ago and are ready to go after the second.
Behind all-sectional bowler Taveon Roberson and a strong junior class, the Rebels like their chances heading into the weekend. But know that to advance it will take more than Roberson to get them there.
“We have to pull together as a team this weekend,” junior Justin Abston said. “We have to support each other, keep our emotions in check and not let the mental game get the better of us.”
They’ve had others step up in each of the last two weeks as the Junior class of Abston, Andrew Johnson, Kalin James, and Kurt Clancy have each produced when the team needed it most to get them this far.
Two weeks ago Clancy and James took home all-conference honors, last week it was Johnson and Abston stepping up with 1,200 series in the regional, but to return to state they will need to put it all together on the same day.
“We have to work hard, stay focused, and read the lanes,” James said. “Last week we were adjusting too late, if we want to advance we have to adjust faster and everyone has to put it together.”
Valiska figures it will take at least a 6,000-pin day to advance. The Rebels are capable of stringing together multiple 1,000-plus pin games, but they are also capable of having a bad game like the 825 that may have cost them a regional title last week.
“We can’t have an 800 games like last week and advance,” Clancy said. “Getting to state last year was a learning experience for us. We understand the pressure and that experience should allow us to adjust better this year.”
In a stacked sectional which includes some of the most established programs in the state, the Rebels will have a chance to make their mark. If they are one of the top six teams and advance they will have earned their place among the state's elite programs.
“In past years I think we were kind of just happy to be there,” Valiska said. “I think last year gave this group the confidence that they can get there and that they do belong even if people don’t know who we are. It should be easier because they have that confidence now.”
It usually takes decades to become a powerhouse. However, if the Rebels can achieve their goal of making it three state finals appearances in five years they will be on their way to becoming the team others will know and one that no one wants to bowl against in a tournament.