By Kyle Shaner
VERSAILLES – Having won a district championship, the Versailles girls bowling team already has achieved unprecedented success this season. Now the Tigers want to continue reaching new heights and win their first state championship in program history.
“I think they’re bowing real good right now,” Versailles bowling coach Tyler Phlipot said of his team. “They’re kind of relaxed. They like to have fun. I really do – I think we’re capable of doing it right now.”
Versailles has collected numerous championships this season. The Tigers won the West Ohio High School Bowling Conference South Division championship then won Ohio High School Athletic Association sectional and district tournament championships. The district title was the first in program history.
All their success throughout the season has the Tigers feeling confident that they can contend with the best teams in Ohio.
“We’re on a roll right now,” Phlipot said. “Again, it just goes back to all the girls working hard and bowling together as a team.”
Along with the confidence they’ve gained this season, the Versailles bowlers have their experience at the 2016 state tournament helping raise their confidence even more. Two years ago Morgan Barlage, Makenzie Berning and Morgan Heitkamp were part of the team that reached the semifinals of the state tournament.
“Going in there freshman year I didn’t have any experience and then now I’ve been bowling for three years now so my confidence is a lot better,” said Heitkamp, who now is a junior.”
What stood out about the 2016 state tournament to the girls was how loud it was and all the yelling fans. Knowing what to expect this time around, they feel more prepared to handle the conditions.
“It’s not as nerve-racking,” Berning, a senior, said. “The first time I was really scared.”
The state tournament, which will be contested on Saturday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Columbus, begins with three regular games and three Baker games. At the end of the qualifying rounds, the 16-team field will be trimmed to eight teams with bracketed play determining the state champion.
“Our main goal obviously is to win,” Barlage, a junior, said. “I hope just to get in the top eight.”
Making the top eight would be the first step in Versailles’ journey to a potential state championship. The Tigers then would have to win three best-of-five matches to achieve their top goal.
If they can maintain their composure, the Tigers think winning a state championship is certainly within reach.
“As long as we keep our cool and stay calm and don’t get angry at ourselves,” Haddi Treon, a junior, said.
Along with competing for a team championship, Versailles has several girls who could contend in the individual standings as well. Heitkamp won individual sectional and district championships and was joined on the all-district team by Berning and Treon.
“I think it would be a good goal to be in the top five at state, but definitely with my teammates by my side we’ll push one another,” Heitkamp said of her individual aspirations. “So hopefully many of us can make it at the top there.”
Regardless of where she finishes, the state tournament will be extra special for Berning – the lone senior on Versailles’ team.
“Amazing,” she said of finishing her high school bowling career in Columbus. “It’s a good way to end the season and my career.”
The Versailles girls bowling team will compete in the OHSAA Division II state tournament at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl in Columbus. Competition is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.