For the Spring Hill bowling team, Monday’s trip back from Dayton was more enjoyable than the one over.
The Raiders rebounded from their Region 4 championship loss last week to Smyrna to defeat Region 3 titlist Rhea County 14-13 — and clinch their first TSSAA Division I boys state tournament berth with the sectional victory.
“I’ve been there since 2004, and it’s my first time,” veteran Spring Hill coach Don McKinnon said regarding the feat.
After taking a 5-3 lead through the first game — keyed by a 234 by David Yauger and a 232 by state qualifier Nick Erdman — the Raiders were swept in Game 2 and trailed 11-5 heading into the final.
Junior Nicollette Harper, who rolled a 162 and a 140 in the first two games, rallied with a 201 to win her individual matchup and spark her team to the overall victory.
“All they needed was three points,” McKinnon said regarding Rhea County. “Nicollette beat one of their top bowlers and sealed the victory.”
Erdman, a senior, led the way for Spring Hill with a 610 series. Yauger, a junior, turned in a 599 series, followed by junior Tyler Williams (547), junior Jeremy Gearlds (543), Harper (503) and senior Jordon Reese (434).
Spring Hill will face Lebanon in Thursday’s state quarterfinals beginning at 11 a.m. Other quarterfinal matchups will include Sevier County vs. Smyrna, Centennial vs. Hardin County and Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett vs. Bartlett.
The state tournament begins Wednesday at Smyrna Bowling Center with Division I boys and girls individual semifinal competition — boys at 11 a.m., girls at 1:30 p.m. — followed by the championship rounds at 4 p.m.
Division I team competition starts Thursday with girls quarterfinals at 8:30 a.m., boys quarters at 11 a.m. and boys and girls semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Division II boys and girls individual semis are set for 4 p.m. Thursday.
On Friday, Division I boys and girls team championships and Division II boys and girls individual championships are set for 8:30 a.m., with DII girls team quarterfinals at 11 a.m., DII boys team quarters at 1:30 p.m., and DII boys and girls team semifinals at 4 p.m.
The Division II boys and girls team championships matches are scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday.
Gearlds and Erdman are both in the DI boys individual field, each among the top 10 qualifiers statewide. Gearlds had a 216.24 average pinfall per game during the regular season, seventh in the field, while Erdman — a two-time qualifier — comes in with a 215.44 average, 10th among all qualifiers.
Columbia Academy senior Austin Kimes (206.25, eighth), a Martin Methodist signee, and sophomores Foster Isenberg (186.04, 20th) and Connor Butt (185.42, 21st) are among the Division II boys individual qualifiers.
NOTE: Because of pandemic-related capacity restrictions, no spectators will be allowed at the state bowling tournament. Only participants and their coaches will be granted entry during their portion of the tournament. Live scoring will be available at TSSAAsports.com.