Niki Bell was determined to take her team with her this time. It was her last chance, after all.
The Soddy-Daisy High School senior bowled games of 210, 226 and 234 in a 22-5 blowout of Spring Hill in Saturday's girls' state sectional at Holiday Bowl Hixson. That put the Lady Trojans in the state tournament in Smyrna for the first time in Bell's four years of varsity competition.
"I've gone every year as an individual, but as a senior I really wanted this for my team," she said. "The Soddy-Daisy girls hadn't been in four years."
The team's only other senior, Ciara Long, is in just her second year of bowling. The former band member got involved at the urging of her great-grandmother and her mother, both of whom have bowled for years, and Long likewise qualified for the individual state tournament this year.
"I am super excited," she said Saturday after rolling a 175 and a 184 in her first two games. "My goal this year was to make it to state as an individual and as a team, and it's a great feeling to know we're all going."
Junior Kylee Saunders is another repeat individual state qualifier from Soddy-Daisy, which is sending four boys to the individual state and has a chance to send its boys' team as well. The Trojans host defending state champion Smyrna in a sectional Monday at 3 p.m. at Holiday Hixson.
Saunders bowled games of 179, 168 and 191 in the girls' sectional. Kayla Bleil went 173-199-180, and Shelby McLitus closed strong with 182 and 203 in her last two games for the Lady Trojans (17-2).
"This team is a very interesting bunch," coach David O'Malley Sr. said. "They have so many styles, but they have come together as a cohesive team, and they just refuse to lose."
He noted that Bleil's strong performance came with her mother just out of the hospital. Tracy Bleil, one of the best women bowlers in area history, has been a big encouragement to the whole team, O'Malley said.
The Lady Trojans led 13-3 after two games with only 14 points needed to win, and they had a cushion of 255 pins. The team with the best pin total for three games gets three bonus points.
Walker Valley, the other Region 3 girls' sectional participant, lost 22-5 at Columbia Central but will have three girls in the individual state: Lauren Smeltzer, Chelsea McCormack and Sondra Combs. Smeltzer led the Lady Mustangs with a 500 series, while Combs had a 215 game and McCormack had a 189. Amber Houchin also had a 189, and Hanna Harwood rolled a 184.
TSSAA girls' bowling sectionals
SODDY-DAISY 22, SPRING HILL 5
Game 1: Soddy-Daisy, 6-2
Highlights: SD -- Niki Bell 210, Kylee Saunders 179, Ciara Long 175, Kayla Bleil 173, Brianna Baugh 157, Shelby McLitus 142. SH -- Katlyn Reynolds 184, McCalla Dahlgren 170, Jessica Mutter 168, Torrie Elkins 151, Brittany McKinnon 141.
Game 2: Soddy-Daisy, 7-1
Highlights: SD -- Bell 226, Bleil 199, Long 184, McLitus 182, Saunders 168. SH -- Marlana Dalton 180, Dahlgren 167, McKinnon 158, Mutter 153.
Game 3: Soddy-Daisy, 6-2
Highlights: SD -- Bell 234, McLitus 203, Saunders 191, Bleil 180. SH -- Dalton 195, Mutter 176, Dahlgren 161, Ashley Munn 154, Elkins 146.
Total pins (3 pts.): Soddy-Daisy, 3,177-2,828.
COLUMBIA 22, WALKER VALLEY 5
Game 1: Columbia Central, 7-1
Highlights: CC -- Chrystan Lyle 208, Racheal Lunn 179, Lynzie Beerman 167, Beth Metcalf 145, Alisha Scott 145. WV -- Hanna Harwood 158, Amber Houchin 157, Lauren Smeltzer 150.
Game 2: Columbia Central, 5-3
Highlights: CC -- Lyle 202, Beerman 200, Metcalf 182, Ashley Vasquez 174, Scott 157, Lunn 152. WV -- Chelsea McCormack 189, Houchin 189, Harwood 184, Smeltzer 178, Sondra Combs 140, Kelley Coffey 140.
Game 3: Columbia Central, 7-1
Highlights: CC -- Lunn 189, Scott 188, Beerman 187, Lyle 184, Metcalf 167, Vasquez 149. WV -- Combs 215, Smeltzer 172.
Total pins (3 pts.): Columbia, 3,103-2,766.