FREEPORT — Highland coach Jesse Buss has always lived off of setting lofty goals, whether it be on his individual performances on the PBA Tour or for his Highland Community College Bowling teams. But maybe none has been higher that what he has set for this year’s talented teams.
That goal — an NJCAA National Championship.
“I believe if we can improve on our performances throughout the year, we will have a great chance to bring home an NJCAA National Championship,” analyzes Buss, in his 2nd year as the head coach of the young bowling program at HCC.
By having a year of college bowling experience under a couple of the bowlers, and adding a strong recruiting class, Buss feels the time is now to strike.
“I believe we have a more competitive ready team this year,” says Buss. “Our returners have one year of college bowling experience and our freshman have been exposed to the competitive bowling environment much more than our players last year.”
The returning bowlers are Kyler Jacobson and TJ Eggleston. Joining them are Evan Johnson (2013 IHSA All-State bowler from Freeport High School), Lucas Korntved (2013 NIC-10 High Average Leader from Harlem High School), Drew Hamburg (2013 NIBC Average Leader from Dixon High School), and Nick Cassidy from Freeport.
“We have the talent, we just need to play the lanes more as a team,” continues Buss. “If we can break the demanding lane conditions down as a whole, we will have a better chance to communicate the correct moves and give ourselves the best chance to score. Communication and spare shooting are the keys.”
While HCC is a two-year community college, they will be competing throughout the season with some of the large universities and bowling powerhouses from across the nation. Teams like Wichita State, Michigan State, Robert Morris, University of Nebraska, Webber International, UW Whitewater and Notre Dame are just a few of the teams that will line up against Highland in each of their events that will take them from New Jersey to Nevada.
“With the overall experience of this Cougar bowling team I love our chances,” says Johnson, who led the Freeport Pretzels to a 7th place IHSA State finish his senior year and finished 9th individually in the 2013 IHSA State Bowling Tournament. “We need to play the lanes as a team, as well as learn from every situation that we are in. With the depth of our roster and with Jesse as our coach, watch out.”
In addition, this year, HCC Bowling has added a women’s team to their already established men’s program from last year. And while the work-load has doubled for Coach Buss, he realizes that the talent that he has on both teams is strong.
“I’m not really sure what to expect from the women’s side,” says Coach Buss. “I know we have the ability and talent to compete highly in the NJCAA, I’m just not sure what the talent level from competing women’s teams will be. It still comes down to spare shooting on these tough tournament conditions, so that will be the key.”
The women’s team will be highlighted by Freeport High School standout athlete Stevie Luy. Joining Luy is NIC-10 bowling standout Johanna Craig (Harlem), Marshell Davis (Freeport), Jessica Mordick (Freeport), and Antonia Royal-Whitmore (Auburn). Thomas Endress, former Freeport High School Girls Bowling coach, is now the assistant bowling coach at HCC and has assumed the girls coaching duties under Buss.
The Highland teams will first see action this fall in the Midwest Collegiate Bowling Tournament on October 5th and 6th in Milwaukee, WI. That field is full, with 72 teams from across the nation.