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Ream’s through May 2015
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Sports - page 8

Final uptick

in Bowling by
Head coach Jim McKnight (from left), senior Sectional qualifier Dominique Lee and assistant coach Beth Trafton prepared for Saturday’s Sectional at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb Tuesday. 			                Photo by Tiffany Kufer
Head coach Jim McKnight (from left), senior Sectional qualifier Dominique Lee and assistant coach Beth Trafton prepared for Saturday’s Sectional at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb Tuesday. 			                Photo by Tiffany Kufer
Head coach Jim McKnight (from left), senior Sectional qualifier Dominique Lee and assistant coach Beth Trafton prepared for Saturday’s Sectional at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb Tuesday. Photo by Tiffany Kufer

Knights close out regular season with win, Lee All-Conference and Sectional qualifier
KANELAND—After a rough stretch plagued the Knights bowling team in 2015, the girls closed out the regular season on a positive note, defeating visiting Sterling 2,419-2,321 on Feb. 4.

The Knights’ busy week continued after the win over the Warriors, as the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference tournament Feb. 5 saw the Knights place seventh out of nine teams, and the Regional tournament Saturday, where they again placed seventh, but this time out of 12 teams.

KHS ended the 2014-15 season with a dual record of 5-9, but were 4-2 as recently as Jan. 6.

On the Feb. 4 make-up game, rescheduled due to snow, the Knights got going early against Sterling but needed a strong third game to put SHS away. The first game saw the Knights jump out to a 895-746 lead, with Dominique Lee leading the charge with a 211 and Melissa Endrenal with a 156. Sterling took the second game 809-725 to close the pin gap on the Knights. Grace Lindgren’s 152 and Lee’s 139 led the Knights. The third game saw Kaneland roll a 799 to Sterling’s 766 to clinch the win. Lee’s 160, Katie Hill’s 148 and Endrenal’s 144 were tops for the Knights in the third game. Lee ended with a 510 series, while Lindgren and Endrenal both finished with a 392, Hill a 385, Anu Kadampelil a 376 and Allison Kadampelil a 364.

At the conference tournament, the Knights opened strong, but couldn’t match the first game’s totals. Lee still had a strong day, earning All-Conference honors as a senior.

“We started the day with a nice team game of 919, which included Dominique’s high game of 247. That game turned out to be the highest game the team and Dominique had the entire day,” head coach Jim McKnight said. “Dominique finished the morning round with a 607 series, which is the highest on the team so far this year. She was also named to the NIB-12 All-Conference team for the season, based on her performances during the season and at the Conference tournament.”

Morris took the team crown, with Sycamore, Rochelle, LaSalle-Peru and Yorkville rounding out the top five teams.

At the Regional, Lee was the only individual qualifier to advance to the Guilford Sectional this Saturday, behind a 1,077 two-round total. Lee rolled games of 200, 183 and 145 (528 series) in the morning session, and clinched her Sectional berth with an afternoon that consisted of 173, 167 and 209 games (549 series). The Knights’ other high series at the Regional were Hill’s 817 and Endrenal’s 771.

“Dominique will be part of a very talented field at the Guilford Sectional in Rockford. Based on past experience, it will likely take an average of over 200 per game to qualify individually for the State Finals the following weekend,” McKnight said. “Dominique is capable of doing that, but it will require consistently high scores, staying out of split trouble, and avoiding a disastrous game or two.”

McKnight expressed how proud he was of Lee as she continues her path through the State series.

“Regardless of what happens, she has proven herself time after time this season. Her great performance at the Regional tournament is a testament to her talent and determination,” he said. “We are very proud to have her represent Kaneland High School, and we wish her all the best.”

Lee heads to Don Carter Lanes in Rockford, Ill., on Saturday, with the first round of the Sectional beginning at 1 p.m.

Feb. 12 sports recap

in Boys Basketball/Girls Basketball by

Don’t see your results in the Elburn Herald? Have your coach fax them to (630) 365-2251 or email them to sports@elburnherald.com.

Girls Soph Basketball
Feb. 3 @ DeKalb—The Knights beat DeKalb 33-27 to win their seventh-straight game. Kristen Siebert led KHS with 14 points and eight rebounds. Carly Elliott had 10 points and six rebounds, and Jamie Martens had seven rebounds. The Knights are 15-7, 8-2 in NIB-12 play.

Girls Freshman Basketball
Feb. 3 @ DeKalb—Kaneland beat the Barbs 41-31. Faith Cowsert led the team with 13 points, and Shayna Hurston had 12. Taylor Parrott had eight points and Katrina Van Horn 4.
Feb. 6 @ Yorkville—Yorkville beat the Knights 31-22. Van Horn had nine points, Abigail Taylor had six and Hurston had five.
Feb. 9 @ NIB-12 Tournament—The Knights lost to Sterling at Sycamore High School 43-34. Hurston and Cierra Kuipers each supplied 10 points, while Taylor had seven, Van Horn had four and Ivory Diaz had three points. The Knights are 14-11 on the season.

Boys Soph Basketball
Feb. 5 vs. Sycamore—The Knights easily outdistanced the visiting Spartans 31-20 behind a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter. Brock Harner had 11 points and Jack Marshall and Jake Hed each had six.
Feb. 10 vs. Ottawa—Ottawa beat the Knights 47-44 Tuesday despite Garrett Hukle’s 17 points. Hed had seven points. The sophomore Knights are 10-8, 6-3 in NIB-12 play.

Cougars to host auditions for Ozzie T. Cougar Feb. 21

in Kane County Cougars by

GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars will host open auditions for the role of Ozzie T. Cougar on Saturday, Feb. 21. Interested applicants are requested to bring a resume and must arrive at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark promptly at 1 p.m. for check-in. Auditions are scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.

Ozzie T. Cougar has been recognized throughout the Chicagoland area as the face of the Cougars’ franchise since the organization’s inaugural season in 1991. The Cougars have welcomed more than 10 million fans in franchise history, with Ozzie serving as the team’s goodwill ambassador who interacts with fans throughout home games, community appearances and special events. Individuals who are professional and have a passion for entertaining fans are encouraged to apply. Candidates must be athletic, physically fit and able to fit comfortably into the mascot costume for multiple hours at a time. Experience as a high school, college or professional sports mascot is preferred but not required. Skills such as dance, improvisation, acting, tumbling, mime and other relevant experience are also helpful. The ideal candidate would be available for all home games at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark (70 regular season games from April to September), potential postseason games, team events and community appearances throughout Chicagoland.

For a complete job description, interested individuals are encouraged to visit the employment opportunities page on the Cougars’ website at kccougars.com. Those with questions may contact Cougars Promotions Director Justin Cohen at (630) 232-8811 or jcohen@kanecountycougars.com.

Campton United SC launches new recreation soccer league

in Community Sports by

ST. CHARLES—Campton United Soccer Club (CUSC) announced the launch of its new “Grass Roots Soccer League,” an instructional soccer program for beginning/recreational soccer players ages 5-7.

The Grassroots Soccer League’s mission is to develop each player’s soccer skill set while nurturing their understanding and love for the game of soccer.

Players can build friendships, be creative and learn teamwork in a relaxing and cooperative environment.

The league is typically comprised of neighborhood children attending the same school. Teams will practice once a week with a professional CUSC staff coach and parent coaches. Teams will also have one game per week. The league will consist of a Coed U6 division and a U7 Boys and a U7 Girls division.

The inaugural season will begin April 11 and last through June 6.

For more information or to register, visit www.camptonunited.com. Questions may be directed to JJ Raune at jj@camptonunited.com or (630) 377-9292.

Kaneland pom clinic Feb. 27

in Kaneland/Poms by
Pom_courtesy

KANELAND—The Kaneland Pom Squad will host its annual elementary school clinic Friday, Feb. 27, starting at 4 p.m.

The clinic will run from 4 to 7 p.m. The evening will conclude with a performance at approximately 7:15 p.m. during halftime of the boys varsity basketball game vs. Sterling.

The cost is $35 and includes dinner and a T-shirt.

Registration forms will be available in Virtual Backpack. For more information, email coach Christine Carter at 10086@kaneland.org.

Kaneland Day and Knight of Basketball Feb. 14

in Boys Basketball by
Schedule
Sophomores:
• 12 p.m. Larkin vs. Kaneland
• 1:30 p.m. Hillcrest vs. St. Charles North
• 3 p.m. Champaign Centennial vs. North Chicago

Varsity:
• 4:30 p.m. Champaign Centennial vs. North Chicago
• 6 p.m. Hillcrest vs. St. Charles North
• 7:30 p.m. Larkin vs. Kaneland

KANELAND—The second-annual Day and Knight of Basketball, featuring six premier varsity and sophomore boys basketball programs—Kaneland, St. Charles North, Hillcrest, Larkin, North Chicago and Champaign Centennial—will take place from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14.

In addition to the schedule below, the day will feature:
• Exhibition game by the eighth grade Kaneland Cager programs during halftime of the 6 p.m. game.
• Kaneland pep band during the 7:30 p.m. game
• Team cheers and spirit for all teams by the KHS Cheer and Pom squads
• Food and drink by Kaneland Sports Boosters
• Customizable event clothing
• 50/50 Progressive Raffle held throughout the entire day
• Prize Raffle held throughout the entire day
• Kaneland’s very own chuck-a-duck.

Further, the players will honor those who are battling cancer, including families, friends and survivors. Each Kaneland varsity player will wear a shooting shirt during warm-ups with a name written on the front of their shirt. The name is of a person who they will be playing for during the remainder of the year.

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Contact Brian Johnson at brian.johnson@kaneland.org for details.

Kaneland boys basketball wins big vs. Morris

in Boys Basketball by
___Laura Gampfer KHS boys varsity bball v. Morris 1-30-15-1

Photo: Junior Dylan Vaca had a strong game against visiting Morris, putting up 17 points and going a perfect six-for-six from the free throw line. Photo by Laura Gampfer

KANELAND—An offensive barrage led by forward Ryan David and guard Dylan Vaca propelled the Kaneland boys varsity basketball team to a 59-42 victory over the visiting Morris Redskins Friday.

The win improved the Knights’ record to 9-9 overall and 4-3 in the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference.

David (three-for-five from the line with three two-point field goals, four three-pointers and a Kaneland game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds) found his shot early, scoring eight of the team’s first 10 points. Guard Tanner Robertsen (five points) and forward Zach Douglas (eight points) chipped in two points apiece as Kaneland’s defense held Morris guard Evan Bjelland (team-high 17 points) to a three-point field goal, and guard Jake Walker (11 points) to a two-point field goal. The Knights led 12-5 at the end of the first quarter.

The Redskins fought back offensively in the second quarter. Bjelland shot three of his five three-pointers and Jake Walker hit another two-pointer as the two guards combined for all of Morris’ points. Knights guard Mark Lilly had two steals to go with his two points on the night, and David, Douglas and forward Mitchel Groen (four points) would round out the nine points scored by the Knights, establishing a 21-16 lead at halftime.

Despite Morris’ early defensive pressure, the Knights exploded with a 22-point attack in the third quarter. Vaca fired off nine points, including a three-pointer, and was also a perfect six-for-six at the free throw line in the second half. After a quiet second quarter, David provided his own offensive firepower as he scored nine points, including two of his four treys on the evening. Robertsen hit a two-point field goal and Douglas was two-for-two at the line. Morris scored eight points behind Jake Walker, forward Griffin Sobol (two points) and a pair of free throws from Bejelland.

Down 43-24, Morris turned up its offense in the fourth quarter. Another three-pointer by Bjelland and complementary treys from guards Austin Patterson (five points) and Cody Niewinski (three points) helped the Redskins outscore the Knights 18-16. However, Morris had no answer for the red-hot Vaca, who scored eight points in the quarter as he, David, Robertsen, Douglas and guard Kevin Fajaro (two-for-two at the line for two points) combined to seal the victory.

Knights head coach Brian Johnson offered his thoughts on the big win.

“We got Dylan (Vaca) going a little bit, which was nice. Ryan David was excellent all game. (He) probably had four or five blocks (and) did a good job on their point guard in the second half. I give a lot of credit to Tanner Robertsen and Mitchel Groen. It was definitely a team effort. Probably the unsung hero would be Zach Douglas. (He) kept hitting the boards and made some nice shots. By far the best game of his high school career.”

Johnson had plenty to say about David, as well.

“As of late, he’s been playing (aggressively). But tonight he was going to attack and shoot from the inside and the outside. He’s playing with a ton of confidence. He’s really blossomed into a nice player.”

Johnson was also happy with Vaca’s play in the second half.

“He was more aggressive on the defensive end. He stayed confident (and) got some good looks. I thought that three-point shot (in the third quarter) was huge. When he’s going well and Ryan’s going well, we feel pretty good about our play.”

The Knights host Sycamore at home Thursday before traveling to O’Fallon Township High School for the O’Fallon Shootout on Saturday.

Kaneland girls lose to Morris in heartbreaker

in Girls Basketball by
__Laura Gampfer KHS girls varsity bball v. Morris 1-30-15-4

Photo: Junior Camri Conley had seven points, four rebounds and three assists Friday against Morris. Photo by Laura Gampfer

Earn OT win over DeKalb
KANELAND—Despite a great second-half comeback by the girls varsity basketball team, the Knights lost a heartbreaking game to the Morris Redskins 44-43 at home on Friday night.

However, a Camri Conley free throw with six seconds left in overtime lifted KHS over DeKalb 49-48 on Tuesday.

The Knights sit at 14-8 overall and 4-6 in the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference.

On Friday, Kaneland’s trademark defense dominated early in the first quarter. The Knights held Morris scoreless through the first 2:30 of the game until the Redskins went on a 14-0 run in the last 2:45. Kaneland turnovers resulted in points for the Redskins, including two three-pointers from guard Jessica Ponce (12 points). The Knights’ four points in the quarter came courtesy of center Bailey Crimmins (five-for-eight from the floor, five-for-six from the line and a Kaneland game-high 15 points) and forward Vanessa Gould (two points).

Kaneland’s offense turned up the heat in the second quarter. The Knights outscored Morris 15-11 behind three-pointers from guards Jennifer Weber (11 points) and Morgan Weber (five points). Both team’s defenses clamped down, and shots were traded, with the Redskins leading 25-19 at halftime. Morris kept its lead in the third thanks to five points (including a three-pointer) scored by forward-center Julie Jurasits (Morris game-high 13 points).

The Knights came out aggressively on both sides of the court in the third quarter. While Kaneland’s defense held Morris to only five points, the Knights’ offense roared back with a 5-0 run in the first 4:25. Kaneland took a 32-30 lead into the fourth quarter on the strength of three three-pointers by Jennifer Weber, guard Camri Conley (seven points) and forward Ally Van Bogaert (three points).

Hoops for a Cure shootout
Saturday, Feb. 7
Kaneland High School

Schedule:
3 p.m. Glenbard North vs. West Aurora
5:30 p.m. Marshall vs. Marian Catholic
7:30 p.m. Kaneland vs. Aurora Central Catholic

The Knights’ defense again came out fighting to start the final quarter. After holding the Redskins scoreless through the first 3:38 of the fourth, Kaneland let their lead slip away due to back-to-back three pointers from Ponce and Jurasits. The two Morris starters combined for 12 of the Redskins 14 fourth-quarter points. Despite the continued heroics of Jennifer Weber and Bailey Crimmins (nine of the team’s 11 fourth-quarter points), the Knights would fall by one point as Jurasits split two from the line in the final seconds to get the win for Morris.

On Tuesday in DeKalb, the Knights lept out to a 18-8 first-quarter lead, but the Barbs kept creaping back over the next two quarters. The fourth quarter opened with both teams deadlocked at 27. Van Bogaert led the Knights behind 14 points and eight rebounds, and Crimmins supplied 13 points and nine rebounds. Conley, in addition to the game-winning free throw, had seven rebounds and eight assists.

The Knights travel to Yorkville on Friday before hosting Aurora Central Catholic at home at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday as part of the Hoops for a Cure basketball shootout. The evening includes Glenbard North vs. West Aurora at 3 p.m., and Chicago’s Marshall vs. Marian Catholic at 5:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m. Kaneland vs. Aurora Central Catholic.

So close

in Wrestling by
jrzachparker

Photo: Junior Zac Parker (182 pounds) helped the Knights dominate the upper-middleweights against Batavia Friday. Photo by Stephanie Vanik

Wrestlers can’t ruin Batavia senior night
BATAVIA—In a rare Friday night dual, the Knight wrestlers fell just short of ruining Batavia’s senior night, losing 31-26 in the team’s regular-season finale.

The Knights fell behind 15-0 after the first three matches (including a forfeit at 113 pounds) before Adam Mish earned a 5-3 win at 120 pounds to cut the Bulldog lead to 12.

Matt Redman added three more team points at 126 pounds to cut the lead to nine before Batavia jumped out to a 22-6 lead.

George Strang got the Knights back on the board with a major decision to cut the lead to 22-10.

Kanelands’ upper-middleweights made things interesting, as Kaneland won every match from 160 to 195 pounnds.

Riley Vanik earned the lone Knight pin in 1:51 at 160 pounds to close the lead to nine again. Colin Gussman (170) earned a 17-6 to pull the Knights within five points. Zac Parker’s (182) 5-2 win got the score to 25-23, and Austin Park’s 1-3 win at 195 got the Knights the lead at 26-25 with one match to go.

Tom Price-Vanik, wrestling up at 220 pounds from his usual 195 pounds, couldn’t overcome Upstate 8 Conference Champion Dylan Uzumecki, eventually losing by fall to the Bulldog.

The Knights now focus solely on the post-season, with the Belvidere Individual Regional taking place this Saturday. The nine-team field includes 25 wrestlers ranked by IllinoisMatmen.com—seven of which are Knights. Those that qualify move on to the Sterling Individual Sectional Saturday, Feb. 14.

Tough stretch

in Bowling by
DSC_0056

Photo: Senior Allison Kadampelil rolled a 108 high-game on her way to a 312 series against IMSA Jan. 29. Photo by Tiffany Kufer

Bowlers aim to right the ship before Saturday’s Regionals
KANELAND—A trip to a historic locale aside, an unkind recent history repeated itself for the Knights bowling team.

After opening 2015 with a win over Huntley, the Knights have lost seven straight to fall to 4-9 on the season.

Jan. 29 saw the Knights lose by just two pins to the host Titans at St. John’s Lanes. The eight lanes at St. John’s Lanes in Aurora—home of IMSA’s bowling squad—date back to 1951, and feature all the original wood and above-ground ball returns.

“It’s rather different from all the other places we bowl, and it’s challenging, as well,” Knights coach Jim McKnight said.

After winning the first game 725-674, the Knights lost the final two games 692-652 and 656-633.

Senior Dominique Lee continued her strong season with a 425 series (146 high game), and fellow senior Katie Hill was close behind with a 412 series (143 high game). Grace Lindgren rolled a 385 series (146 high game).

“All our scores were on the low side, but lack of intensity and failure to convert many easy spares sealed our fate,” McKnight said. “It’s tough to lose by just a few pins, but we couldn’t make the right adjustments to just roll the ball consistently.”

On Tuesday, Lee had a 235 game to lead off the day, but the Knights couldn’t rally behind her and fell to host Ottawa 2,832 to 2,362. Lee finished with a 585 series—tops for both teams—while Hill finished with a 407 series (181 high game). Anu Kadampelil (362, 123), Melissa Endrenal (347, 133), Allison Kadampelil (345, 118) and Lindgren (316, 108) rounded out the Knight scoring.

The Knights continued a busy week by hosting a make-up match with Sterling Wednesday, and then travel to Streator for the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference Tournament Thursday, starting at noon (both results unavailable prior to press time). Against Sterling, Kaneland righted the ship, winning 2,419 to 2,321 over the visiting warriors. Lee led all bowlers with a 510 series (210 high game).

With the Regional Tournament looming this Saturday at Poplar Creek Bowl in Hoffman Estates, Ill. McKnight knows his bowlers will need to make adjustments from their recent play if they want to advance.

“We’ll have to do better by Saturday at the Regional Tournament,” he said.

Feb. 5 sports recap

in Bowling/Boys Basketball/Girls Basketball by

Don’t see your results in the Elburn Herald? Have your coach fax them to (630) 365-2251 or email them to sports@elburnherald.com.

Soph Boys Basketball
Jan. 29 vs. Morris—The Knights won 40-39 over the visiting Redskins. Jack Marshall led the team with 12 points, while Jake Hed was right behind with 11. Brock Harner, Dan Franck and Garrett Hukle each had four points.

Soph Girls Basketball
Jan. 27 vs. Sycamore—The Knights had Sycamore nipping at their heels all game, but kept them at bay, winning 32-25. Kristen Siebert led the team with 10 points, while Sydney Davison and Carley Elliott each had seven. Jamie Martens had five points and nine rebounds.
Jan. 29 vs. Morris—KHS burst out to a 10-0 lead before Morris closed to within four points. A strong second half helped the Knights win 36-24. Siebert again led the team with 15 points, while Davidson supplied seven. Addie Ringel had six points and six rebounds.

Girls JV Bowling
Feb. 3 @ Ottawa—The Pirates defeated KHS 1,855-1,748 Tuesday. Amber Spaetzel led the squad with a 378 series (159 high game), while Natalie Barnhart was next with a 351 series (137 high game). Marissa Michi supplied a 315 (119 high game).

Building a Bronco legacy

in Boys Basketball/Boys Track/Football/Kaneland/Sugar Grove by
14-WMU-CMU FB

Sugar Grove native Fleck earns MAC Coach of the Year honors, contract
extension in 2nd year with Western Michigan University

KALAMAZOO, MICH.—After leading the biggest turnaround in Mid-American Conference (MAC) history, it’s no surprise that P.J. Fleck was recently signed to a six-year contract extension as Western Michigan’s head football coach, and named 2014 MAC Coach of the Year,

Fleck, a Sugar Grove native and 1999 Kaneland High School alum, was hired as the Bronco’s head coach in 2013 when he was just 32 years old, making him the youngest head coach in Division I FBS history and also one of only two college football coaches to have played and coached in the NFL. Fleck played for the San Francisco 49ers during the 2004 and 2005 seasons before an injury forced him to move from playing to coaching. He worked as an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012.

14-WMU-CMU FB

“I think Kaneland taught me to believe in myself. I was a freshman starting on the varsity basketball team, and you talk about people not liking you. Well, it taught me to believe in myself and that I truly belong, and that’s what Joe Thorgeson (the head football coach) did for me, and Ken Neahring, our track coach. Because as confident as people thought I should have been in high school, I wasn’t.”P.J. Fleck

Under Fleck’s leadership, the Western Michigan Broncos last season staged a dramatic turnaround from their 1-11 record in 2013, Fleck’s first year as coach. Fleck faced widespread criticism from fans following his first season with the Broncos, something WMU Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard said was expected.

“I totally knew our first year we were going to have some issues with a coaching change and a culture change,” she said. “We only won one game. But that next year, we put together a recruiting class that was the best in the MAC, and the recruits were absolutely committed to P.J.’s philosophy. We were able to put together a year where we had the biggest turnaround in college football history.”

The Broncos went 8-4 this season—their best campaign since 2008—and played in their first bowl game since 2011. WMU lost the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to the Air Force Academy Falcons 38-24 on Dec. 20, but the Broncos’ seven-game improvement in 2014 was the biggest one-year turnaround in MAC history.

Fleck attributed the bowl loss to having a young team—most of the players, which he has recruited himself, are freshmen and sophomores—that lacks the experience and depth of other teams.

“We’re one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the country, and we’re playing (an Air Force) team that’s mostly juniors and seniors, and they’re very well-coached,” he said.

For Fleck, though, the most important thing is not whether the Broncos won or lost—it’s about where they are headed.

“I have people ask me, ‘Oh, you’re 8-4. Did you exceed your own expectation of the program? Is the program way ahead of schedule from where you thought?’ I use the same answer I used last year. I knew where the program was developing,” Fleck said. “You saw 1-11, but the program was developing from within with a 12-0 type feel. You might have seen 1-11, but the program was really 12-0 inside.

“And it’s the same thing this year. We’re 8-4, and when you look at where our program’s headed, it’s exactly where I thought it would be. Wins and losses, that doesn’t really matter in terms of when you’re building a program from the ground up. It’s about where you’re headed, and for me, I think we’re on track.”

He’ll get that chance to continue building a program from the ground up. In addition to being named the 2014 MAC Coach of the Year. WMU on Dec. 18 extended Fleck’s contract through the 2020 season. Under the terms of his contract, he’ll make a base salary of $225,000 per year, plus other guaranteed compensation that raise his total compensation to over $800,000 per year.
Success-based bonuses and incentives could push his total income even higher.

Beauregard, who made the decision to extend Fleck’s contract, said the team wanted to lock him into a long-term contract because they knew he would be sought after. She also wanted new recruits to know that they’d have Fleck as their coach for their entire college football career.

14-WMU-CMU FB

“As a head coach, you get scrutinized; you get evaluated every day, whether through the media’s eyes, your community’s eyes, your players’ eyes. And the only profession you can compare that to, the everyday scrutiny, is a singer or an actor. There’s so few opportunities to be normal, and everybody thinks they own a part of you. That’s made me a better man, because my skin is so much thicker than it’s ever been. Every day, I’m learning about myself.”P.J. Fleck

According to Beauregard, when she originally hired Fleck two years ago, she specifically chose him to engineer a program turnaround. She hoped Fleck, who had worked as an assistant coach under Joe Novak at Northern Illinois and under Greg Schiano with Rutgers University and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—both of whom had reputations as program builders—would be able to bring a winning record to the Broncos and transform the program’s culture.

“We made a coaching change, and we were looking for something different than what we had had,” Beauregard said.

Fleck’s experience as both a player and assistant coach at NIU, a fellow MAC school that has offered strong competition to WMU, is part of what interested the Broncos in Fleck, Beauregard said. But beyond that, the program was seeking someone who could bring a positive approach to coaching—something that Fleck has been so successful in creating, she said, that it was a major reason for extending his contract.

The change that Western Michigan sought included far more than just the team’s record. The school wanted to increase attendance at its football games, which had dwindled, and build a larger fan base. It was a long-term mission at the outset.

“Obviously, when you change a culture, it takes time,” Fleck said. “This wasn’t a football program turnaround (or) a win-loss turnaround, it was a true culture turnaround. It was the culture of the community, the administration, the alumni, the boosters who had never even been a part of Western Michigan before. So you talk culture, it’s everything—it’s a complete mindset and belief system.”

That total culture change Fleck has been working to instill at Western Michigan is symbolized by the “Row the Boat” mantra he’s brought to the Broncos—a metaphor from another sport altogether.

In rowing, Fleck noted, everyone on the team has to row together. Rowers face backward and can’t see where they’re going; they have to have faith that if they just keep rowing together in the same direction, they will reach their destination. It’s not just a mantra for the players, Fleck said, but for everyone in the Bronco community, from the administration to the students to the fans in the wider community.

“If we can get everybody rowing at the same tempo, same speed, same efficiency, same power, in the same direction, we’ll get from point A to point B quickly,” Fleck told fans when he introduced the mantra two years ago. “That’s the goal of this program: win a MAC championship, and win it now. Part of rowing the boat is changing a culture.”

He’s encouraged Broncos fans and community members to hang oars on their walls and in their businesses to show support for the team and to generate the kind of positive energy he wants to see surround the team, and he gives oars away to as many visitors as he can. He’s also brought in a new DJ to play music at home games to up the energy level of the crowd.

But the biggest piece of a culture change is recruiting, Fleck said, which he’s doing differently than most fellow Division I schools. Fleck tries to recruit new players almost exclusively from within a six-hour radius of Kalamazoo, Mich., an idea he picked up from Joe Novak, the Northern Illinois head coach he once played for.

“(Novak’s) belief system is that you’ve got to get mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, the guys at the local coffee shop engaged. They’re now following that team because they know someone on it,” Fleck said. “You have players who all have the same ethic because they’re all from the same area, and family and friends can come to see every game. That’s great support for the players, and your attendance goes up. We want to keep it local and recruit local talent.”

Beyond that, though, Fleck said that he cares as much about a potential player’s character as he does about his football prowess. The characteristics he’s looking for in his new recruits are more about the athlete’s heart than about football.

“We talk about three characteristics in our football program,” Fleck said. “That is a nekton mentality—always attacking, never full, like a Great White shark. I want to know, is he attacking life? Is he growing on a daily basis? Is he charismatic? Then we talk about a Prefontaine pace. (Steve) Prefontaine was the greatest distance runner of all time, and he could go the distance.
14-WMU-CMU FB
“The last part is our farmer’s alliance. We want players who have a very unselfish mentality. We want to know their friends; we want to interview their friends. That’s where we start, and we go from there. There have been plenty of big-time players who we’ve stopped pursuing.”

The character-based approach appears to be working. The Broncos in 2014 had the highest-ranked recruiting class in MAC history. Freshman running back Jarvion Franklin was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, and 10 Broncos were named to Phil Steele’s 2014 Postseason All-MAC team. Franklin, the top running back in the MAC this season, led the conference with 25 total touchdowns—24 of which were on the ground.

The focus on what Fleck dubs “heartwork” isn’t just limited to the players. Fleck wants to have total commitment from everyone associated with the Broncos, including the fans—something he’s encapsulated in his “Row the Bow” mantra, Beauregard said.

“There’s no doubt that when he first came, there was a lot of skepticism and criticism about ‘What the heck does rowing the boat have to do with Western Michigan football?’” Beauregard said. “But it’s about total belief; it’s about everybody being on the same page of wanting the best for our student athletes. Culturally, it’s been something our students have absolutely loved, and we’ve had more interest in it every day.”

Beauregard said that Fleck’s own experience with tragedy—he and his wife, Tracie, lost a son, Colt, to a heart condition in infancy—has spoken to many of the student-athletes, some of whom have experienced their own life struggles.

“One thing that’s exciting is that it’s not just about football,” Beauregard said. “It’s about keeping going in our lives; it’s a belief that things are going to turn around for you; it’s a commitment that everybody is making 100 percent effort. So they buy into it, knowing that there’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel if you just keep rowing.”

It’s a philosophy Beauregard describes as “contagious,” noting that Fleck has led the Broncos players to do a lot of community service and also to have the second-highest GPA in team history. The team’s 2.91 GPA won it the MAC Sports GPA Trophy for a fourth consecutive year. Also, the team’s GPA has increased significantly from a 2.4 average in 2013 to the 2.91 average this season.

Fleck attributes his coaching philosophy today to the many people that influenced him throughout his athletic and coaching career, believing he’s learned something from every place he’s been, starting with Kaneland High School.

“I think Kaneland taught me to believe in myself,” Fleck said. “I was a freshman starting on the varsity basketball team, and you talk about people not liking you. Well, it taught me to believe in myself and that I truly belong, and that’s what Joe Thorgeson (the head football coach) did for me, and Ken Neahring, our track coach. Because as confident as people thought I should have been in high school, I wasn’t.”

Kaneland High School inducted him into its Hall of Fame in June, recognizing Fleck’s career achievements, as well as his leading the 1997 and 1998 Knights to back-to-back State championships. An All-State wide receiver, he set school records his senior year with 95 catches and 199 career receptions, then went on to play for Northern Illinois, where he still holds the school record for punt returns (87).

From Novak, the NIU head coach who offered Fleck a scholarship when no other Division I team was interested, Fleck learned the importance of taking a chance and giving people opportunities, he said.

From Mike Nolan, former San Francisco 49ers head coach, Fleck said he learned “how to be a class act”; from Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who gave Fleck his first coaching opportunity, he learned “how to teach young men life”; from Jerry Kill, Novak’s successor as NIU head coach, who offered Fleck an assistant coaching position, he learned how to care for the players.

“And then I went to work for Greg Schiano, and he’s probably one of the hardest people to work for in the country,” Fleck said.

Schiano, who hired Fleck as an assistant coach at Rutgers University, brought him along to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“Some of my hardest personal battles I faced (were) when I was working for him,” Fleck said, alluding to the 2010 loss of his newborn son. “He taught me how to push myself, how to never sacrifice what you really want.”

These are lessons Fleck intends to carry forward as he strives to make Western Michigan a nationally recognized program, and as he adjusts to being in a constant spotlight, something he never experienced in the relative anonymity of his previous assistant coaching positions.

“As a head coach, you get scrutinized; you get evaluated every day, whether through the media’s eyes, your community’s eyes, your players’ eyes. And the only profession you can compare that to, the everyday scrutiny, is a singer or an actor. There’s so few opportunities to be normal, and everybody thinks they own a part of you,” Fleck said. “That’s made me a better man, because my skin is so much thicker than it’s ever been. Every day, I’m learning about myself.”

Editors note: P.J. Fleck graduated from Kaneland High School in 1999, not 1998 which was mentioned in the original edition of this story. The Herald regrets the error.

Kaneland approves Goff as 2015 softball coach

in Kaneland/Softball by

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday voted 5-2 to approve the hire of this season’s varsity softball coach: Peter Goff, who is currently the athletic director at KHS.

Board trustees Pedro Rivas and Tony Valente were the two “no” votes.

Goff will replace former softball coach Brian Willis, who was released from his coaching position on Sept. 8 by way of unanimous board approval. Goff will receive a stipend amount of $7,896 for his coaching duties. His annual salary as athletic director is $85,000.

Goff is no stranger to the sport of softball, having been a head coach at Ashton-Franklin Center High School in Ashton, Ill., for three years before serving as an assistant for two years and head coach for six years at Sterling High School.

Goff’s teams won back-to-back Regional Championships during his tenure at Sterling, and he compiled a 63-47 record. He had also been a boys basketball coach at both schools, as well as Bloomington High School in Bloomington, Ill.

Willis is still employed by the Kaneland School District, serving as a driver’s education, physical education and adaptive physical education teacher at the high school.

School Board President Cheryl Krauspe on Monday was asked for the reason regarding Willis’ release. She stated that the situation was a “personnel matter.”

Goff said that he will not be the long-term coach at Kaneland, and his position is on an interim basis. In an interview Wednesday morning, Goff indicated that after interviewing five potential softball coaches, the committee in charge of hiring felt it best to wait until April or May, when the hiring process will renew.

“The position will be open for (2015-16) so we can have a bigger pool of candidates,” he said.

Goff indicated that hiring “in-house” would play a factor in the future hire.

Valente on Monday questioned whether the hire of Goff as softball coach would be “double dipping.” He pointed out that a “yes” vote would hinder Goff and take away from other programs.

“It’s not best practice to hire an administrator to be a coach,” Valente said.

Krauspe said she knew of two athletic directors who coach.

Valente continued his thought.

“It’s concerning how we have people who didn’t step up,” Valente said. “(The) assistant coaches resigned. It’s not something that I’m supporting.”

Goff would not be the only athletic director in the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference to coach at the varsity level, with Kevin Crandall serving as the head football coach at Rochelle, and Ottawa’s Mike Cooper serving as head girls basketball coach. Goff also referenced long-time Sterling athletic director Bruce Scheidegger—who was a varsity girls basketball coach—as being a mentor to him.

School Board Vice President Teresa Witt expressed her support for Goff.

“I approve the athletic director stepping up in this difficult circumstance,” she said.

School Board Secretary Gale Pavlak also weighed in on the matter.

“I think it’s important that the (varsity softball) girls are allowed to have a season,” she said.

Goff intends to lean on his administrative staff when it comes to his duties as athletic director.

“The admin team is on top of everything,” Goff said regarding the spring season. “People know me—I’ll still be everywhere like usual. If I were younger and had younger kids, it may have been tougher.”

Goff said he has already been at work with current varsity assistant Mike Kuefler.

“We’ve had a couple open gyms so the girls can get some swings in, and coach and I just watch and prepare for the season to start March 2,” Goff said. “(Kuefler) is a great resource and he knows the game very well. He is very knowledgeable about the sport, and we’re very fortunate he stayed on.”

Goff is optimistic about the upcoming season.

“We want this year to be the best experience of the girls’ lives, not just here at Kaneland,” he said. “We have a good core coming back and some sophomores and juniors moving up. I don’t know all their names yet, but I’m learning as quickly as possible.”

Goff understands the concern some have regarding his pulling double-duty as athletic director and softball coach, but indicated he looks forward to the challenge.

“The busier I am, the better I am,” he said.

Ben Draper contributed to this story

Jan. 29 Knight of the Week: Ally Van Bogaert

in Girls Basketball by
Vanbogaert

Ally Van Bogaert
The senior forward had 10 points at Rochelle and nine against Sycamore, but her hustle and ability to score and help run the offense have made her a vital piece of the Kaneland girls varsity basketball team.

Knights dominate IMSA, Rochelle Township

in Girls Basketball by
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KANELAND—In what could only be described as a dominant road week for Kaneland girls basketball, the Knights overwhelmed IMSA 78-33 on Thursday night and Rochelle Township 61-33 on Saturday.

The Knights did suffer a 53-46 home setback against visiting Sycamore Tuesday.

Senior Emily Grams looks for an open Knight Saturday at Rochelle. Photo by Mary Paulson
Senior Emily Grams looks for an open Knight Saturday at Rochelle. Photo by Mary Paulson

Kaneland sits at an overall record of 13-7 overall and 3-5 in the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference.

In Thursday night’s game at IMSA, the Knights played their entire bench in the first half. After leading 51-10 at halftime, Kaneland held their opponents to 23 points in the second half and never looked back. Ally Van Bogaert led the way for the Knights with 14 points and seven rebounds (four-of-six shots from the floor, including one trey) followed by Camri Conley with 13 points and Jen Weber with 12 points.

At Rochelle Township on Saturday, Kaneland continued its unstoppable play. The Knights jumped out to a 14-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and never relinquished it. Crisp passing, hustle on both sides of the court, balanced ball distribution and a smothering defense had Kaneland up 29-10 at halftime. Only in the third quarter did Rochelle manage to score in double-digit figures as a team. Abby Kearns led the Hubs with 15 points.

The Knights had four players in double figures behind center Bailey Crimmins, who had 16 points and seven rebounds. Ally Van Bogaert, Jen Weber and Vanessa Gould scored 10 points apiece. Camri Conley led the team with 11 rebounds and seven assists in the 28-point win.

On Tuesday, Sycamore used an 18-7 run in the fourth quarter to negate a three-point Knight lead. Sycamore scored six-straight points on a made basket, two free throws, a technical foul, and a basket after the technical, and also made 10 free throws total in the frame. Morgan Weber led the Knights with 10 points followed by Van Bogaert’s nine. Conley had eight rebounds and six assists.

Kaneland is home against Morris on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Kaneland boys basketball survives scare at Rochelle

in Boys Basketball by
Junior Dylan Vaca goes up for two points in the third quarter at Rochelle Saturday.
Photo by Mary Paulson
Junior Dylan Vaca goes up for two points in the third quarter at Rochelle Saturday. Photo by Mary Paulson
Junior Dylan Vaca goes up for two points in the third quarter at Rochelle Saturday.
Photo by Mary Paulson
ROCHELLE, ILL.—Kaneland Knights boys basketball on Saturday survived a furious fourth-quarter comeback by the Rochelle Hubs to secure a hard-fought 66-61 win on the road.

The victory improved the Knights’ record to 8-9 overall and 3-3 in the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference.

Rochelle got into foul trouble early as the Knights opened an 11-4 run in the first 6:20 of the game. Kaneland guard Connor Fedderly (nine points) and Rochelle guard Aaron Mehrings (team-high 18 points) traded shots in the final seconds of the frame, and the Knights led 16-11 after one quarter of play.

Both teams got into foul trouble, with 10 apiece by the end of the second quarter. Rochelle tightened up their defense and pulled to within eight points at halftime with key free throws made by Mehrings, forward Matt Albers (nine points overall) and guard James Porter (two points). The Knights managed to maintain their 34-26 advantage thanks to free throws made by guard Dylan Vaca (eight points) and back-to-back three-pointers by Fedderly at the end of the quarter. Fedderly was three-of-three from three-point range on the night.

Both Kaneland and Rochelle kicked up the intensity in the second half. The Hubs scored four three-pointers, courtesy of Mehrings, guard Landon Griffith (three points) forward Justin Harms (three points) and forward Tim Monfils (three points). The Knights battled back through the continued efforts of Vaca, as well as key shots by forward Mitchel Groen (eight points), forward Ryan David (team-high 18 points) and two three-pointers from forward Steven Limbrunner, who finished with nine points.

The fourth quarter was a fast-paced affair from beginning to end. Kaneland turnovers ate away at its six-point lead, as Rochelle took the lead 58-57 on a shot from guard Colfay Pointer (three points) with 4:15 left in the game. The lead would be traded back and fourth until Kaneland forced a key turnover with 14.2 seconds to play. Forward Tanner Robertsen (six points) hit both free throws to seal the win for the Knights.

“When you play Rochelle, you have to be ready to play fast. Usually that’s the type of game they like to play,” he said. “I thought we did a decent job of enabling pressure, but I found that we turned the ball over a little to much, to be honest. (We) got (into) a lot of foul trouble. In the first half, we need to be a little more sound around the rim and finish. I thought we rushed.

“In the second half, we seemed to be in foul trouble. Down the stretch, I was really happy with our plan. I thought guys made some big plays. (Mitchel) Groen had a huge charge. (Guard Mark) Lilly had a big steal. Tanner made free throws down the stretch. It was nice to seal the deal on the road.”

Coach Johnson offered continued praise for David, as well as Fedderly, for their performances.

“Ryan is kind of a do-it-all guy. He usually plays against the (opposing) team’s best player,” Johnson said. “We needed to post him up tonight, and he was more than willing to do that. I was happy that he stayed focused, even though he had to sit on the bench for awhile (due to foul trouble). He really kept fighting.

“Connor opened things up. (He) kept us alive in the first half (and) made some really big shots. He’s a senior; three-year varsity player, so we expect that from him.”

The Kaneland Knights host Morris at 7 p.m. Friday.

Wrestlers hold their own against NIB-12

in Wrestling by
___jrgeorgestrang

___jrgeorgestrangPhoto: Junior George Strang (right) earned All-Conference Saturday at the Northern Illinois Big XII Tournament in Yorkville. Sophomore Collin Gussman (below) was the runner-up at 170 pounds, earning All-Conference. Photos by Stephanie Vanik

Five earn All-Conference; team places fourth
YORKVILLE—Nine of the 10 teams in the conference appear on the IllinoisMatmen.com team rankings—from honorable mention to fourth place in Class 2A. Couple that with an individual field that featured 23 ranked wrestlers and another 26 on the honorable mention list, and it’s clear the Kaneland Knights held their own at Saturday’s annual Northern Illinois Big XII Conference tournament.

The Kaneland team, ranked sixth in Class 2A, finished fourth in the team standings with 119 points. Nine Knights cracked the top six, with five earning all-conference honors and another honorable mention all-conference.

Host Yorkville, ranked 15th in Class 3A, was crowned NIB-12 champions for the third-straight year, narrowly edging out Geneseo (ranked fourth in Class 2A) 215.5-212. Class 3A DeKalb (honorable mention) was third with 151 points, and Class 2A No. 15 Sycamore rounded out the top five with 112 points, seven behind KHS.
__socollingussman
Colin Gussman, ranked No. 10 at 170 pounds, was the lone Knight to make it to a championship match, facing off against Yorkville’s Joey Nauman but losing to the Foxes’ junior to earn runner-up and All-Conference honors.

A bevy of third-places helped propel the Knights, with George Strang (145 pounds), Riley Vanik (160 pounds), Austin Parks (182 pounds) and Zach Thielk (285 pounds) all winning their matches and earning All-Conference accolades.

Strang opened his day with a loss against Yorkville’s Brody Sharp (eventual runner-up), but battled back by earning a fall against Sycamore’s Samm Cottone and decisions against Sterling’s Keagan Kaye and DeKalb’s Howie Olson to reach the third-place match. Against Geneseo’s Ethan Kennedy, Strang dominated his way to third place with a major decision.

Vanik, ranked No. 8 in Class 2A, pinned Rochelle’s Alex Eckhardt before losing to No. 8-ranked in Class 3A Bryce Shewan of Yorkville in the semifinal. In the third-place match, Vanik put up a decision against Morris’ Cody Baldridge.

Parks, ranked No. 12, started off his day with a major decision win over Sterling’s Brian Folsom, but lost a close match to second-ranked and eventual champion Ryan Pitra in the semifinal. Parks would earn decisions over LaSalle-Peru’s Kayne Jenkins and Yorkville’s Derek Cajina to get third place.

Thielk pinned Rochelle’s Will Lawhorn, but lost to Sterling’s 10th-ranked Cariel Beasley to fall to the consolation bracket. There, Thielk pinned Geneseo’s Cole Howard before earning a decision over Morris’ Andrew Faught.

Tom Price-Vanik defeated DeKalb’s Leif Williams before losing to eventual champion, ninth-ranked Paul Turner of Ottawa. After defeating Saul Serrano of Sterling, Price-Vanik lost a rematch against Williams in the third-place match, but still earned honorable mention All Conference standing.

Matt Redman lost to runner-up Brenden McGee of DeKalb in the 126-pound quarterfinals, and to No. 9 Isaac Anderson of Sterling to settle for a clash with Geneseo’s Chase Boone for fifth place. Redman dispatched Boone via major decision.

At 120 pounds, Adam Mish lost his first match versus ninth-ranked Isaac Figueroa of Sterling, but battled back to make it to the fifth-place match against Yorkville’s Brett Stauffenberg, eventually losing in a major decision.

Luke Eggenberger lost to eventual runner-up Logan Mathey of Sycamore to fall to the consolation bracket. There, he defeated Colton Stage of Sterling before getting pinned by LaSalle-Peru’s Gino Nessenger. In the fifth-place match, Eggenberger lost a major decision to Rochelle’s Jake Meyers, placing sixth.

Up next for the Knight grapplers is a dual on Friday against Johnson Mound hill-mate Batavia. The Bulldogs host the Knights at 5:30 p.m.

Jan. 29 sports recap

in Bowling/Boys Basketball/Girls Basketball by

Don’t see your results in the Elburn Herald? Have your coach email them to sports@elburnherald.com or fax them to (630) 365-2251.

Sophomore
Boys Basketball

Jan. 10 @ LaSalle-Peru—The sophomore Knights lost 47-36 to LaSalle-Peru. Jake Hed and Garrett Hukle each had nine points, while Josh Pollastrini had six.
Jan. 16 vs. Yorkville—The visiting Foxes won 36-28. Jack Marshall, Hed and Hukle each supplied five points.
Jan. 24 @ Rochelle—The Knights earned a 70-67 overtime win at Rochelle. Brock Harner had 23 points (three treys, and four-of-six from the free throw line) and Hukle had 20 (eight-of-12 free throws). Hed went five-of-seven from the free throw line on his way to 11 points.

Sophomore
Girls Basketball

Jan. 20 vs. Geneseo—The sophomore Knights held off Geneseo 27-26, avenging an earlier-season loss to the Leafs. A 14-7 second quarter propelled KHS, which was led by Kristen Siebert’s 15 points and Addie Ringel’s eight.
Jan. 22 @ IMSA—Kaneland easily dispatched IMSA 28-7. Sydney Davidson led all scorers with nine points. Ringel supplied eight rebounds.
Jan. 24 @ Rochelle—Down 17-8 entering the fourth quarter, the Knights used a 16-2 fourth quarter run to win at Rochelle 24-19. Siebert and Jenna Harvell helped the cause by shooting 11-for-16 from the free throw line to secure the win.
Date vs/@ opponent—recap

Freshman
Girls Basketball

Jan. 21 vs. Plano—The Knights used a 18-7 run in the second quarter to outpace the visitng Lady Reapers, winning 48-30. Faith Cowsert led the team with 14 points, and Katrina Van Horn had 13. Shayna Hurston had eight points, while Ivory Diaz and Logan Guerra each had four.
Jan. 24 @ Rochelle—The freshman girls won a close one at Rochelle, 35-32. Abigail Taylor led the way with 14 points, while Van Horn had nine and Hurston had seven.

Girls
JV Bowling

Jan. 22 vs. Lisle—The JV squad lost to visiting Lisle 2,197-1,727. Marissa Michi led the team with a 341 series (133 high game), and Natalie Barnhart was close behind with a 335 series (126 high game).

Bowlers struggle to find rhythm

in Bowling by
Laura Gampfer Girls Bowling Jan 22, 2015-7

Photo: Junior Melissa Endrenal (left) high-fives senior Allison Kadampelil before taking on Lisle Jan. 22. Photo by Laura Gampfer

Lions spoil senior night for Knights at Mardi Gras
KANELAND—A festive mood was dampened by a senior night loss to visiting Lisle Jan. 22 at Mardi Gras Lanes in DeKalb.

With seniors donning golden crowns, coach Jim McKnight’s crew put up a heroic battle, but just couldn’t hold on late against the visiting Lions.

“We have a great but friendly rivalry with Lisle, and both teams tend to be quite sociable and good sports in both winning and losing,” McKnight said.

KHS lost the first game to Lisle by only 50 pins, and bounced back to win the second game by 70 to take the lead in the series behind Grace Lindgren’s 189 game. However, things took a turn for the worst as Lisle pulled away to win by 77 points.

“Unfortunately, we really fell apart the third game, when our highest score was only a 134,” McKnight said. “You can’t win games with scores like that.”

Lindgren led the Knights with a 467 series, while seniors Katie Hill (439), Dominque Lee (413) and Allison Kadampelil (382) rolled on their special night. Juniors Anu Kadampelil (382) and Melissa Endrenal (391) were also in the varsity lineup.

On Tuesday, the Knights fell to a very competitive Morris team 3,497-2,323. Hill’s 493 series was tops for the Knights, followed closely by Lee’s 470. Lee and Hill also tied at 184 for their respective high games.

McKnight’s crew has three regular-season duals to go before the Northern Illinois Big XII conference Tournament is held in Streator Feb. 5. The longtime coach knows you just have to go with the ebb and flow of a season.

“We certainly would like to have seen things go the other way, but that will have to wait until next time,” McKnight said. “Our focus will now be on the rapidly-approaching end of the season and the State Series.”

The bowlers Thursday will travel to St. Paul Lanes in Aurora to take on the IMSA Titans at 4 p.m.

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