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The Yelm bowling team poses for a photo after their matchup against Shelton on Thursday, Nov. 14, in Olympia.

After a 5-0 win in their first league game against North Thurston and a close 3-2 loss to top-ranked Shelton, the Tornados are feeling confident about their place in the South Sound Conference.

Yelm returns three of the team’s top five bowlers this year, with seniors Gracie Mathis, Annalee Schilter and junior Bethany Place leading the well-established team. 

“It’s all about being able to hit that stride. I really believe they’ll do what they do, but it’s all about hitting that three, four, five (games),” said Head Coach Stacy Roe. “Year in and year out, we have great girls. Couldn’t ask for anything more.” 

Roe said there are eight varsity girls competing for the team’s five regular spots. He said he expects a diverse roster and for there to be some changes as newer players show better weeks. 

Last season, the Tornados finished third in their league (9-5) and fell short at the annual South Sound Conference Championship matchup. 

Place said she and the team, overall, have state-bound aspirations. But that lofty end goal isn’t going to taint their hopes to enjoy the sport and improve their overall game.

“My goals for this season are to make it to state, raise my average, and overall just to have fun and make sure my teammates are having fun during the season as well,” Place wrote in a text message. 

As a sophomore last season, Place had a school record sixth place finish at the 3A State Bowling Tournament and the highest individual game and three-game record at a district meet for Yelm. 

In the SSC, Place was a top-10 contender and finished out the league with a 170 average. 

With the amount of off-season training Place has under her belt, Roe believes she’s due for another record-breaking season. 

Roe said there are a number of teams this year that have seen a decent amount of turnover, which could help Yelm in the long run. North Thurston lost eight seniors, but returned two of the league’s best bowlers, he said. Timberline lost their top three bowlers. 

“There are three or four teams that are kind of in the same boat,” he said. 

Roe said he’s excited with the talent and potential his girls have shown thus far. 

Two years ago, Mathis competed individually at state and finished 47th with a 135 six-game average. Now, as a senior, she’s hoping to lift herself and her team up to qualify for state. 

More than anything, she’s hoping the team collectively can find momentum to propel them past districts. 

“I feel like it’ll be more of an experience,” she explained. “I know we can do it, though. We’ve got some good girls.” 

Although a year younger than her, Mathis said she looks up to Place and what she’s contributed to the team. 

“She’s so fun and she’s such a good bowler,” she said. 

Mathis finished out last season with a 153 average in league play, and finished out with the team’s third best average. 

In their first game this season, Yelm blew out North Thurston, 5-0, on Nov. 12. Mathis caught fire, bowling a 164 and 204 in the first and second games, respectively, to bring Yelm the first two points going into Bakers games, which are games played with five bowlers combining to bowl one game.  

Up against Shelton last Thursday, Nov. 14, the Tornados found the same consistency, but fell short in a 2-2 tie that came down to series totals. Shelton’s 1,872 four-game series total brought them the final point over Yelm, which had a 1,818 series total. 

As of the end of first week play and the team’s first four practices, Schilter’s average currently stands at 127, Place has a 162 average and Mathis is at 152. 

As far as game totals between the team’s five players, Roe said his goal for the team is to stick to a 725-point finish each game, which would help the team secure a point advantage going into the regulated two Bakers games. 

“If we hit that number pretty consistently, we might bring that up to 750 and go from there,” Roe said. 

Over the team’s first two games, they’ve only hit that mark once in the four regular combined series they’ve played. 

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