The Celebration High girls bowling team reached a milestone this year in its first year of being eligible for district and postseason play – reaching the state tournament.
The Storm were runners-up in the District 9 girls tournament, beating established program Boone in the process, to earn a slot in the state tournament this week at Boardwalk Bowl in Orlando. While the Storm wasn’t one of the top 16 teams in the first round of qualifying to make it to the bracket portion of the tournament, Coach Denise Kuzma said she was impressed with what the second-year program accomplished.
“I talked to the coaches at Boone and Oak Ridge, and they told me it took them years to reach the state tournament,” she said. “So what our team accomplished is fabulous. None of our kids play other sports so they had to learn how to be competitive.”
Kuzma helped start the program last year, and the Storm bowled as an independent ineligible for the postseason, bowling mostly road matches. The team practices and competes locally at Kissimmee Lanes, which is about 10 miles and 20 minutes east of campus on 192.
“It’s not ideal because the traffic can be brutal, and once we started having district matches – we’re in a district with Orange County schools – they never come down here so they don’t know where it is,” she said. “It’s set back from the road behind other buildings. We had to start a couple matches late.”
After a regular season that sets the seeds for the district tournament and nothing more – “The regular season is nothing but match practice,” Kuzma said – the Storm went into districts with the hope of finishing in the top two. Then they promptly lost to Oak Ridge to fall into the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament, but then won three straight matches, including defeating rival Boone in the semifinals, to get a rematch with Oak Ridge, who won the district final.
Going to state would be a huge learning experience, so Kuzma said the team set very basic goals.
“Don’t finish last, and beat Oak Ridge,” she said. “We accomplished both.”
The team is made up of juniors Natasha Ferguson and Salisa Sukitjavanich and seniors Aspen Breanan, who bowled the team’s high score of 189 at the state tournament, Jailene Oliva, emely Collado and Nicole Temple.
“So we just started and now I have to rebuild next year and replace four starters,” Kuzma said.
She said she’s approached other schools in the county about forming teams to give Celebration some local competition, but said she received “some backlash from administration” about adding another fall sport.