A year ago, a talented junior class helped catapult the West Orange boys bowling team to state for the first time since 1995. Now seniors, those boys have helped the team off to a strong start.
In 2017, the West Orange High boys bowling team made it to state for the first time since 1995.
It was a remarkable achievement for the Warriors, who finished as district runners-up to qualify for the game’s biggest stage in Florida.
That team was led largely by a strong, talented junior class. This fall, they are seniors, and now that they have had a taste of competing at state, they are eager to return.
“There’s no question about it — the experience they gained last year has them even hungrier this year,” head coach John Colbert said. “They want to go back.”
Three of the seniors for West Orange — Ryan Archer, Matt Delano and Sam Hamilton — are the top three players for the Warriors in terms of averages. Archer averages a 200 game, Delanod a 195 and Hamilton a 191. Trevor Hackbardt, the team’s fourth senior who helped recruit Archer to the game several years ago, averages 180.
Beyond their scores, though, is something more. There is a team chemistry they believe is the secret to what got them over the hump in 2017 — and that they believe can take them even further in 2018.
“Last year, we bonded as a team — and this year, we’re doing the same thing,” Delano said.
“There’s no question about it — the experience they gained last year has them even hungrier this year. They want to go back.”
— John Colbert, head coach
Colbert, a veteran coach for the team, said the camaraderie the players share is huge — especially when it comes to important matches and the postseason.
The athletes agreed.
“Team chemistry is a pretty big thing,” Hamilton said. “We’ve gotten pretty close and hung out (outside of bowling) many times.”
The success this fall is tangible. Last week, the Warriors beat Evans (2,082-1,687) Sept. 25, Olympia and Timber Creek in a three-way match Sept. 26, and Windermere (2,661-2,558) in a match Sept. 27.
Then on Sept. 29, the team competed in the ultra-competitive Kegel High School Challenge in Lake Wales and placed fourth. The respectable finish put them ahead of district rival Apopka — FHSAA state champions the past five years running — which placed ninth.
The two teams will meet in a regular-season match Oct. 4 and again in the district tournament Oct. 30. The Warriors beat the Blue Darters for the first time two years ago but came up short in 2017.
“Everything we’re doing is geared toward beating Apopka,” Colbert said. “We know they’re very good — we respect them — but we also know we’re very good.”
The rivalry with Apopka serves as an added incentive for West Orange’s senior class to push one another — whether that is during the regular season, or in the spring or the summer, when they also compete together.
“Without them, I’d probably be a little less than what I am now,” Archer said. “They’ve pushed me, and I kind of have been doing the same with them, also. We’ve been helping each other out, basically the whole way.”
Beyond the four seniors, the Warriors have talented juniors helping out in Brandon Staley (183 average) and Carlos Gomez (179 average).
Together, they hope the consistency across the lineup can overcome teams they will encounter in the postseason with heavy-hitter players who average closer to the mid-200s.
“We have a deep lineup,” Colbert said. “When everyone is willing to shoulder their share of the burden, and we go out there and do what we’re supposed to do, it’s a pretty fun day for us, usually.”