Without a genuine high-average participant, coach Steve Chambers' veteran team did exactly what was planned.
Competing for the first time in the Division II girls state championships last Friday in Columbus, Chambers felt his squad could make a strong showing.
And what a team performance the five girls who bowled displayed.
The Crimson Flashes finished runner-up to perennial power Coldwater, losing the three games 227-168, 167-159, 187-148.
Coldwater has won three of the last five state titles and finished runners-up to Mechanicsburg a year ago.
"I'm so proud of my girls," Chambers said. "They gave their best and surprised a lot of people along the way. We were the No. 13 seeded team among the 16, and to come away with a runner-up trophy is fantastic.
"We bowled 908-760-858 in the three regular games to survive the first cut — from 16 teams to eight," he added. "We opened the eyes of a number of coaches with the 908 opening game. We slipped to 760, but added 858 to make the cut, and that was our first goal.
Willard was in sixth after the qualifier, then moved up to fourth after scores of 178-222-156—556 in the Baker games. The overall total was 3,082 — five pins ahead of Minerva.
In the bracket matches — best of five Baker games — Willard had No. 5 seed Minerva first and won out, 3-2, (129-132, 203-192, 127-177, 193-182 and 164-137) to advance to the semifinals.
"We then faced Springfield Northwestern, the top seed after the qualifying with 2,878 in regulation games, and a 3,510 total overall," Chambers said. "We had three games in the 200s to beat them (203-169, 146-174, 211-191,205-188) 3-1 to get our shot at Coldwater,'
"We went with five girls all the way through with Kathleen Schaaf at the leadoff spot, followed by Annie Cummings, Hannah McClanahan, Kourtney Craft and Aubrey Mathias," Chambers added. "We had Kristen Hurst and Claire Buss ready if needed and all seven girls played a role in getting us to the state."
Buss, Cummings, Mathias, McClanahan and Schaaf are seniors, while Craft and Hurst are the juniors.
An example of the team balance is the position each girl had after the regular games.
Craft was the leader with 194-161-169 with 524 for 33rd place. Schaaf rolled 171-167-180--518 for a tie for 39th, and McClanahan was 42nd at 190-152-172--517. Mathias added 186-143-155--484 for 57th place, and Cummings was 60th with 167-137-179--483.
Northwestern fired 969-969-940--2,878 to run away with the regulation honor, then posted 257-214-161--632 in Baker game firing to wind up at 3,510 compared to 3,343 for Coldwater.
Individually, Ally Hosier (Mechanicsburg) was medalist with 233-178-245--656 and 11 girls had 600s.
"I think we bowled better than anyone expected and had a chance to beat them (Coldwater)," Chambers said. "It was just a remarkable day for the girls and they had a chance to get the attention of some of the college scouts who were there.
"Like I said earlier, I'm so proud of what these girls accomplished, winning the last NOL title for one, then to finish the season the way they did."