ROCHELLE — There was a sense of normalcy inside T-Byrd Lanes on Monday as the Rochelle Township High School boys bowling team held its first practice of the 2020-21 winter season.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic limiting many athletic programs across the state, Hub bowlers put on their masks, laced up their shoes and loaded the racks with their balls Monday in preparation for the upcoming season. It will be Rochelle’s second straight season under head coach Jim Lyles, who took over the program last year.
“I’m excited because I wasn’t sure whether or not we would be able to compete,” Lyles said. “I’m happy for the boys that we can do this and I’m excited that we have a lot of the boys back from last year who have some experience. I think we should be competitive this year.”
The Hubs are back in action this winter after graduating two players from the varsity roster including Most Valuable Player Award winner Logan Ortega and IHSA Sectional qualifier John Henson. Juniors Devansh Patel and Sergio Guevara will highlight a new group of varsity bowlers looking to build on a one-win season this past year. Patel earned the Most Improved Player Award this past season, while Guevara brought home the Most Dedicated Player Award.
“I thought our season went really well last year,” Lyles said. “We had one kid advance to sectionals and a lot of kids who were close. I thought the kids learned a lot and I think they’ll bring that experience back this year. I think we can be a .500 team and I know a lot of the kids have been practicing over the offseason. Sergio and Devansh are two kids who can step up.”
Seniors Hayden Smith and Leo Hernandez, as well as juniors Luke and Max Orlikowski, are four bowlers who could make the leap from the JV team this winter as the Hubs rebuild their varsity roster. Sophomores Evin Odle and Ben Wengelewski are two more players who Lyles said have shown tremendous growth over the offseason after recently bowling with the JV team.
“Evin practiced a lot over the summer and Hayden came on strong at the end of last season,” Lyles said. “Ben’s a solid bowler who’s very consistent all of the time… I’d like to see the boys improve their concentration and focus. I don’t want the boys to be down on themselves when they’re bowling bad. We’re going to emphasize with the boys that they’re going to have bad frames or bad games and they have to forget about those and move forward.”