Some of the top girls bowling talent in the state will be in Morris this weekend for the Redskins' annual tournament at Echo Lanes.
Morris coach Harry Banks believes there are two clear favorites in the 13-team field. One is Minooka, which finished second in the state tournament in 2012, and the other is Oswego East, which led the Indians by two points in the Southwest Prairie Conference race at the beginning of the week.
The Redskins have bowled against both teams in tournament settings already in 2012-13. They saw Minooka at Plainfield North's Strikefest Dec. 8 and at the Lockport Invitational a week after that. Morris hosted Oswego East for a dual Dec. 4.
"It's going to be tough. There are two teams, Oswego East and Minooka, who are really good," Banks said. "If we could get in the top three, I would definitely be happy with that."
Minooka has competed in six tournaments already this season, and they have yet to finish lower than second in any of them. They have wins at Palatine, Plainfield North's Strikefest and Reavis to go with runner-up showings at Plainfield Central, Lockport and Prospect. In addition, they started the week 5-0 in duals.
"We hope to continue to get better each week and hope to be competitive and hopefully give ourselves a chance to be in the top two or three teams there," Minooka coach Frank Yudzentis said.
Yudzentis can fill out more than a full varsity lineup with girls currently averaging in or above the high 180s. The Indians' top averages, as of Monday, belonged to Emily Koulis with a 198, Allison Warwick with a 194, Kayly Windbiel with a 193, Nicole Segato with a 192, Alyson Lakota with a 189 and Leanna Homyak and Lexi Jones with 188s.
Yet against a field that includes East as well as other SPC schools like Plainfield East, Plainfield South and Romeoville, Yudzentis is not taking a high finish for granted.
"Harry does a great job of getting some quality bowling teams in this tournament," Yudzentis said. "We are familiar with most of them as quite a few come from our conference."
Defending individual state champion Morgan Flaherty is also expected to be at Echo Saturday with her team, Lincoln-Way West. Though the Redskins have not bowled at the same event as West yet this season, they are familiar with Flaherty.
"She's someone I look up to," Morris bowler Savannah Strange said. "She's my inspiration. I look up to her 100 percent."
Strange enters the Morris Tournament fresh off a fourth-place showing at Sycamore's Matt Clark Invitational last weekend. It is her second-highest tournament finish of the season behind her third-place effort at Lockport in mid-December.
"I'm proud of how I did. The lane conditions were unlike anything I had ever seen before, and I'm happy with how I handled them," Strange said. "The whole time, every frame, I had my coach right there, telling me, 'Good job. Keep it up,' whether I had gotten a strike or not."
Bowling at Echo should be an advantage for the Redskins this weekend.
"All of us have been here forever, bowling on these lanes," Strange said. "We know the lane conditions."
Strange says she hopes the Redskins to win the tournament and she captures the individual title. Though she knows both goals will be difficult, she does think the Redskins are bowling better as the season progresses. They. like her, were fourth at Sycamore last weekend.
"Everyone has listened to coach, and what he is teaching us is showing in our game," Strange said. "I would like for us to win it. We haven't won it ever, since we started having it. I don't think we have even gotten that close lately. We would like to prove we can get it done at our home by finishing first."