ROCHELLE — Jim Lyles started seemingly from scratch when he took over as head coach of the Rochelle boys bowling program this winter. While the Hubs didn’t record many victories in his first season, Lyles knows the team has nowhere to go but up.
Rochelle went 1-12 overall this season, finishing fourth in the Interstate 8 Conference and sixth in the IHSA Oregon Regional at Dixon’s Plum Hollow Lanes. The Hubs made every pin count in their lone victory, defeating the Geneseo Maple Leafs by only seven pins. For Lyles, this season was about laying the groundwork for future success.
“I thought we had a successful season,” Lyles said. “A lot of the guys didn’t have their own bowling balls and we were able to fit them for balls throughout the season. We have a lot of kids already practicing for next season, and we’ve seen the High School League at T-Byrds increase from 10 players to 25 players which is great... A lot of kids made big improvements this season, and I thought they really enjoyed themselves.”
Senior Logan Ortega was Rochelle’s top bowler for most of the season, and although Ortega will be the only senior graduating from the varsity team, there are several eligible returners who can step up for the Hubs next season. Rochelle rostered four varsity sophomores this winter including Dylan Milton, Sergio Guevara, Devansh Patel and Maddex Ramos. Junior John Henson may also return after qualifying for sectionals as an individual.
“The kids have a lot of passion and they’re all looking to get better,” Lyles said. “Even the junior varsity bowlers are practicing here a lot so they can improve. I think we have a chance to have a solid six-man roster next season, and that’s something we didn’t really have this season. We didn’t really know who we’ve have this season other than Logan and Sergio... I’m excited.”
Only two bowlers from the junior varsity team are graduating seniors (Nick Jensen and Jordan Dobberstein), meaning there will be plenty of competition for roster spots when the Hubs return to the lanes next season. Lyles said the keys during the offseason will be continued practice, particularly in picking up spares, and team bonding.
“The kids have bonded well and a lot of them practice together, which is good for building team chemistry,” Lyles said. “There’s good friendly competition, and I think they’ll be much closer next season… The kids came together at the end of the season, where we got our first win and won a few games in conference play. We know now that we can win.”