The No. 1 and No. 2 girls bowling teams in the North Puget Sound League Olympic Division faced off Wednesday, and while Thomas Jefferson defeated Decatur 4-1, retaining its top spot in the NPSL, both coaches were satisfied with the day’s events.
First-year Gator coach Mike David said, while Decatur (7-2) didn’t pick up the win, the Gators were making great strides toward that eventual outcome.
“We didn’t get the W, but we did get them in one of the matches, so that was cool,” he said.
David also sees this is as the start of a cross-district rivalry for years to come.
“I hope so. They are definitely the team to beat, and we’ve positioned ourselves firmly in second place,” he said. “So, we’ll get ’em. I just don’t know when, but we’ll get them.”
Raiders coach Joseph Townsend laughed when he heard that prediction and said he had no doubt it would happen. He said he likes the team David has created, with its unity, commitment and drive to win, adding that is exactly what will propel the Gators to a win in the future.
“I like the fact that they competed,” Townsend said of Wednesday’s match. “Decatur is becoming a very good team. They’ve been a very competitive team, and they’re out there trying to beat our behinds every time.”
At the same time, he appreciates that his team, still undefeated as of Wednesday, recognized what the Gators were bringing to the competition.
“They can see it, they can feel it, and they rise to it,” Townsend said.
The Gators and Raiders will face off one more time this season, Jan. 12, but the match, scheduled at David’s request, will be a nonleague face off, serving as extra practice for both teams in preparation for the NPSL league championships, which begin Jan. 17 at Secoma Lanes in Federal Way.
David and Decatur, who will play its last league match against Todd Beamer next week, was pleased Townsend agreed to the extra match because it will only benefit his girls moving forward in the postseason, although he is not looking past Todd Beamer.
“We can’t look past Todd Beamer because when you start looking past people, that’s when they get ya,” David said.
Instead, he hopes the Gators finish out their season strong. And while David is confident his team will earn that win over T.J. in the future, the Jan. 12 match was not scheduled to serve that purpose.
“If you’re going to better yourself … you always want to practice against the best to become better,” David said.
Instead, David will be looking for his players to pick up more personal bests in their next match against the Raiders, win or lose.
“You have to kind of see how the river’s flowing, I guess, and a lot of times, we look at the girl bowling in the same position [for the opposition],” David said. “That’s who you need to beat. … I think it’s important to put individual challenges in front of them because, in the end, that only helps the team.”
The Raiders will also wrap up the regular season against Decatur but face a grueling challenge between now and then. Thursday, T.J. played Black Hills, followed by Seattle Prep Friday, both nonleague challenges. Next week is just as busy, however, with the Raiders’ last league match of the season against Hazen Tuesday and possibly their biggest challenge of this season against a tough 3A Wilson team and the always competitive Decatur Jan. 12, Townsend said.
The Wilson match will be a good challenge for the Raiders and help identify at what level the players are individually. It will also help prepare them for the league and district tournaments, Townsend said. Whether they will carry their undefeated record into the postseason or hand Wilson its first loss of the season is not a big concern for Townsend.
“I try not to talk about it too much,” he said. “We just let it be its own little animal and instead try to win the day.”
And despite the Raiders’ successful season thus far, Townsend doesn’t let his players get too ahead of themselves.
“I’m quick to remind them I don’t think that we’ve bowled our best game,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve reached our maximum potential as bowlers. So we compete with each other. We compete with the people we bowl against. So tomorrow, we’re hoping to be better than today.”
Both Townsend and David see great potential in the postseason for their players.
David hopes Ruth Magana, Lindsay Cummings and Cece Greene all shine at the NPSL championships but sees a lot of potential even after the season ends.
“We’re a young team, and I can see having several good years in front of us,” David said. “My JV team is very strong. They bowled, in some cases, better than varsity teams this season. So I have depth.”
Townsend said, while his players may be set on going to state, he just wants to see them grow and perform their best at districts.
“The competition level will bring out who they really are as bowlers,” he said, adding the district and state tournaments will offer additional challenges than just stiffer competition because the players compete in multiple matches in a day, and it requires a great deal of endurance.
Townsend said this is why he scheduled so many games for his team this week and next.
“I loaded it up on the back end,” he said, adding he wants his players to start to encounter fatigue from back-to-back matches and learn how to adjust. “It’ll only help them as we come to the final stages.”