The roster is short, but spirits are high for the Marshalltown girls bowling team.
Coming off a 1-19 campaign,?the Bobcats'
pursuit?of improvement starts with getting back to the basics.
"We've got a long ways to go. My goal for the girls is to work hard with each one and improve our record from last year," said coach Jeremiah McKeever, who takes over the reins of both Bobcat squads from Roger Taylor Jr.
From improving form to picking up spares, McKeever has his largely untested group focusing on the fundamentals. Originally expecting 12 on his team to field both a varsity and JV team, the Bobcats' roster recently dropped to eight due to academic ineligibility issues and a couple members choosing not to return.
While McKeever is now limited to just one squad, it could help speed the growth process of his mostly green unit.
"We're going to try to rotate the girls in (at varsity) and give everyone a chance," said McKeever.
"With a smaller group I'm hoping I can focus on each one of them more individually."
Most of the unit also participates in the junior program on Saturdays, which will allow another opportunity for McKeever to aid his personnel in their development.
All-district honoree Tia Vergauwen, a junior, will again be the spark plug for the Bobcats after leading the team with a 269.7 series average last year.
"Tia is a great person and she's been really encouraging," said McKeever.
"She's kind of our team captain. She really has the spirit to push the bowlers to do well."
Other varsity mainstays that will be counted upon include Lily Neuan (257.4), Mercedies Bills (228.6) and Katelyn Anderson (211.0).
The Bobcats will have to shore up the production left behind by Cheyenne Meling (231.7), Briana Hunst (227.5), Jasmine Scott (197.3) and graduated senior Katlyn Aikin (172.3). Crysa Vergauwen, Samantha Tocheri, Kathleen Ferrin and Lindsay Wiegand round out the team looking to best last season's fifth place finish in conference.
Early practice sessions have yielded some promising signs, as the team's current top six individual scoring average is 129, an eight-pin jump from last year.
Three returning state qualifier teams are on the Bobcat's slate as they battle both Mason City (Jan. 29) and Southeast Polk (Feb. 5) in dual action before taking both in addition to Waukee at the CIML Iowa Conference Meet Feb. 7.
The Bobcats' long-term approach to improvement starts Dec. 4 as they host Des Moines Roosevelt at the Totem Bowl at 3:45 p.m.
"The girls are really excited," said McKeever. "They were hoping to have two teams but we'll do what we can with what we have."