(Editor’s Note: This issue went to print before the beginning of the bowling playoffs)
After two years of being considered one of Division II’s premier bowling squads, the Big Red Bowlers took on the 2016-17 season looking to rebound from losing four seniors who had anchored the team for their four years as members. Things went about as expected in the rebuilding year and the team finished with a 2-14 record. While the record certainly was not the way the team wanted the year to end, many positives were taken away. New leadership emerged after the loss of former captain, Jackson Wooten. Numerous underclassmen got their first experience bowling in matches. The team as a whole learned how to rebound from hardship. After this tough season, MBA Bowling was ready to move forward.
Coming into the 2017 season, every starter from the previous year’s team returned, and the Big Red welcomed back a former face in junior Alex Hasse who had taken the previous year off from bowling. Led by senior captain Trace Fontana as well as senior Ben Coulthard, the team was primed to return to the level of play of years past. Fontana said “It was really important to me and other veterans of the program to get back to where we were 3 years ago, and to have finally gotten back to bowling with that same intensity is a great feeling.” It was evident with the intensity of preseason practices that no one wanted a repeat of last year’s disappointing outcome.
The bowling format this year was slightly different from years past, as three new teams were introduced as members of the DII Middle Region. It was also announced that state tournament qualification at both the individual and team level would change. Because of the addition of Goodpasture, Nashville Christian, and Lipscomb, the length of the season was also shortened, going to 10 matches from 16. This meant that attention to detail in every match would be necessary because one slip up could be the difference between a playoff bye or having to bowl in the first round.
The beginning of the season was marked by three consecutive wins, most notably against rival Ensworth. After this performance, the Big Red sent a message to the rest of the league that they meant business. Last year was no longer, and opponents could not overlook the team. After this 3-0 performance, the team’s performance was noticed, earning a ranking as high as #2 by Tennessee Prep Bowling.
However, the Big Red was not able to rest on laurels for too long as the team had a four game stretch where they had to face three of the top four teams in the division. Four losses to JPII, Ezell-Harding, Friendship Christian, and DCA followed the team’s hot start to the season. After this stretch, the team
had a decision to make: would they put their tails between their legs and quit or would they bounce back from hardship and work to turn around the season?
Determined to make the season a success, the Big Red Bowlers rattled off four straight wins. The team used the adversity they faced as a turning point, as the lessons learned in bowling premier teams helped lead the Big Red to victory. With significant contributions from underclassmen in John Wallace, Flynn McRae, and Charlie Hansen, the Big Red got help from every member of the team. The final win against FRA was significant for the team, as it meant the Big Red would finish with a winning record.
With the end of the regular season, the Big Red finished with a 7-5 record and the #6 seed entering the regional tournament. Captain Trace Fontana was excited with the momentum the team carried into the postseason, saying “As we head into the playoffs the team is bowling with great intensity and enthusiasm. We all know what this team is capable of and are excited for this week coming off of thanksgiving.”