SMYRNA — For the seventh time in its history a Walker Valley team advanced to the semifinals of a TSSAA state tournament, but unfortunately the northern Bradley County school still has just one state title in its trophy case.
After earning a spot in their first state championship tournament, the Mustang bowling team won its opening round match 16-11 over Seymour Friday but then came up one win shy of the title match as they fell to Bartlett by an 18-9 tally Saturday morning in the semis.
“We had a tremendous, hard-fought win Friday and gave a tremendous effort against a very strong team today (Saturday), but came up a little short,” commented coach Dean Anderson, whose team went 9-4 during the regular season before running off six straight post-season victories to earn its spot in the state field.
“We have a very young team (just one senior, one junior and one sophomore), so we are very optimistic and excited about our future,” he added. “With such a young team (four freshmen starters), the sky’s the limit.”
Although the Mustangs came into Saturday semifinals having posted the next to the lowest score (3,071) in the opening round and were facing a Bartlett (21-8) team that defeated the squad (Upperman) with the highest point total (3,634), coach Anderson felt confident. “We had a good practice Friday night before going to the motel to get a good night’s rest.”
“Today (Saturday) was a new day and everybody started at zero,” the Mustang mentor expressed. “We were tied after the first game and trailed by just two points after the second.
“We were doing well in the third game, and freshman Dakota Dawson came in and rolled a 220, but overall we missed a few key spares and they (Bartlett) were able to win it,” coach Anderson remarked.
Despite Bartlett taking four of the six head-to-head matches in Game 1, Walker Valley was able to win the pin fall bonus points to even the score at 4-all.
The teams split the second game, each winning three heads up battles, but the Panthers knocked down 100 more pins than the Mustangs to take a 9-7 edge into the final game.
Bartlett secures its spot Saturday afternoon’s finals against undefeated Columbia Central with four heads-up wins and a 93-pin difference in the final game for a 3,256-3,114 final count. Columbia defeated Bartlett 21-6 to claim the state title.
Freshman Caleb Zanoska topped the Walker Valley effort Saturday with a 575 series, including games of 201 and 200.
Junior Jacob Baker rolled a 215 on his way to a 549 tally, while his older brother, senior Brenden Baker, posted a 524 series, with a 218 high mark. Freshman Briton Helton helped dout with a 503 three-game total, while classmate Dawson entered the lineup in the third game and had the Mustang high-game with his 220.
In Friday afternoon’s victory over Seymour, Walker Valley picked up four heads up victories, plus the pin fall bonus points for a 6-2 advantage after Game 1, but the Eagles returned the favor in the second round to even the score.
With the match at 8-all and the Mustangs with a 162-pin lead heading into the final game, the teams split the final six head-to-head battles, but Walker Valley was able to claim the round’s pin fall bonus by 44, which also gave them the overall pin fall bonus points for the 3,071-2,865 tally.
The balanced Mustang attack saw five 500-series with Helton leading the way with a 543 that included a high game of 200.
The Baker brothers posted similar scores with Jacob rolling a 524, including a 199 high mark, while Brenden came in at 522. Zanoska and freshman Nathan Kirby rounded out the high scoring with a 514 and a 508 series respectively.
The Mustang bowlers became the school’s fourth state semifinalist team in five years, joining last year’s Walker Valley baseball squad, the 2011 state runner-up Lady Mustang golfers, the 2009 Mustang basketballers.
The top school year for Walker Valley teams came in the 2004-05 when the Lady Mustang bowling team won the school’s lone state title, while the girls’ fast-pitch softball squad was the Class AA state runners-up, plus girls’ basketball team advanced to the state semifinals before falling to Chester County.
That same year, the girls 3200-meter relay team brought home the top prize from the state track meet with a time of 10:04.32. Bradley Davis won the state 100-meter dash in 2011 with a time of 10.73 seconds.
The 2010 Lady Mustang basketball squad also earned a state tournament berth, falling in the opening round to Morristown-West.
Walker Valley has had several athletes qualify for state individual tournaments, with Caleb Langford’s third place finish in the 2010 state wrestling traditional being the top finish.