A year ago, Lexie Shirley had her teammates on the Wadsworth girls bowling team with her at the Warren District, and they ultimately qualified for the state tournament.
This year, the talented senior is going to have to make do with freshman brother Brendan, a member of the Wadsworth boys team.
“It’s kind of weird, but it’s a good thing,” Lexie said. “I’m really proud of him. He’s my little brother, so it’s odd having him there, but I’m excited for him.”
The 5-foot-5, 129-pound Lexie, who averaged 206 last season but is at 198 this year because her softball commitments have prevented her from practicing as much, won the Portage Sectional on Saturday at Sky Lanes in Garrettsville with a 606 series. The 18-year-old will be looking to grab one of five individual berths to the state tournament when she competes at Crest Lanes in Warren on Feb. 23.
The 5-6, 164-pound Brendan, who averages 185, had a career-high 290 game Sunday and also ended up winning the Portage Sectional with a 663 series. Like his older sister, the 14-year-old will be looking to finish in the top five at Crest Lanes and advance to state, but he will bowl the day after Lexie, on Feb. 24.
The rest of the Medina County schools with bowling teams — Black River, Brunswick and Buckeye — will compete at the Lorain Sectional on Sunday at Rebman Recreation, with any team or individual qualifiers joining the Shirleys the following weekend in Warren.
“She was kind of mad — kiddingly mad, but mad,” Brendan said when asked how Lexie reacted to him winning the day after she had. “We’re really competitive. We always try to beat each other at anything we do.”
The Shirleys, who learned the sport from parents Bart and Judy, took completely different routes to their sectional titles.
While Brendan bowled the game of his life right off the bat, Lexie struggled to a 154 before bouncing back with games of 224 and 228.
“After the first game, I was not sure how the rest of the day was going to go for me, but I got my focus back,” she said. “In the 10th frame of the first game, I struck out, and after that I didn’t miss the pocket.
“It helps a lot. Now I know I can fight through it and pull out a decent score.”
Lexie, who is close to getting some scholarship money to bowl at Division II Ursuline College or Notre Dame College while majoring in biochemistry, picked up the sport when she was 8 and throws a 15-pound, green and gray Storm Virtual Energy.
After battling back to win at sectionals, her next goal is to advance to state.
“Last year if I was bowling bad, I knew my team was there,” she said. “This year I have to do it all on my own. I have to bowl the way I know how.
“It would be nice to make state because it’s my senior year. I’d like to go out with a bang.”
Brendan, who uses a 15-pound green Vibe made by Hammer, would like to advance as well, but winning the sectional has already made his freshman season a success.
After sparing in the first frame of the day, he closed Game 1 with 11 straight strikes for a 290.
“I didn’t pay attention to the scoreboard,” he said. “I knew I was on a string of strikes, so I just started relaxing and throwing the ball.”
It was after that game was over that the nerves started to kick in, but Brendan was able to hold on and post scores of 196 and 177.
“I was too wound up,” he said. “I couldn’t believe I shot 290 in my first game.”
Ultimately, Brendan also couldn’t believe he wound up winning a sectional title, but that only served to match his older sister’s accomplishment.
“There’s a lot of competition between the both of us, even in practice,” Lexie said. “We’re trying to beat each other no matter what we’re doing. We have a lot of fun with it, but we’re definitely trying to outshine the other all the time.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.