Garry McNiesh had a feeling this season that the quartet of Eva Avans, Sierra Ciesiolka, Maya Dixon-Dates and Alyssa and Samantha Jewell had the potential to be the best team he’s coached in nine years as Lady Knights head coach.
They ended up being the best team in the state.
The Lady Knights won the Texas High School Bowling Club’s state championship on Saturday at the Bandera Bowling Club in San Antonio.
“I probably get as excited as the kids,” McNiesh said. “It’s exciting all of the time, but we had never, in my term at the helm, we had never won it.”
The state title is Heights’ first since winning the inaugural event in 2002. The Lady Knights have become a mainstay at the event after qualifying for the state tournament for the ninth consecutive season, including a finals appearance in 2007.
Ciesiolka, a freshman and daughter of Ellison head coach Karin Ciesiolka, clinched the state title with a strike on her last bowl during the third and final game against defending state champion McKinney Boyd that gave Heights a 197-152, 172-195 and 199-192 win.
“She’s very clutch under pressure,” McNiesh said. “It’s just amazing to me the pressure these youngsters go under.”
Of the 264 schools with bowling clubs, 36 qualify for the state tournament. The tournament begins with a five-person team bowling round where the teams bowl three games.
The teams with the 16 best scores advance to the team tournament where they are seeded according to their scores. The winner of each round is determined by a best-of-three head-to-head series.
Heights bowled a total of 2,625 to earn the No. 4 seed while Copperas Cove was seeded fifth with a score of 2,610 and Ellison sixth with a score of 2,585.
“Once they made that Sweet 16, we had a very good chance of winning,” McNiesh said.
The Lady Knights opened the team tournament with a 141-152, 190-181 and 178-111 win over Amarillo and eliminated Cove 138-166, 192-151 and 180-136 in the quarterfinals.
Heights disposed of top-seeded Texas City with a 201-156, 163-148 sweep in the semifinals before closing the door on No. 3 seed Boyd.
Cove opened tournament play by edging Plano East 188-185 while Ellison downed San Antonio Clark 227-163 in the opening round before being eliminated by Boyd 171-152.
For McNiesh, the tournament was a culmination of a season in which he saw the five girls grow and improve. But he also credits his assistants Tom Christie and Bob Shea with much of the success.
The Lady Knights ended the season on top of the state and could be back again in 2015. All five members of the team are underclassmen.