The 2016-17 season was one of the best in school history for the Nordonia boys bowling squad.
The Knights won the district title and finished fifth at the Division I state tournament in March.
As the Knights enter the 2017-18 season, however, just about everything — the bowlers, the boys’ coach and even the Knights’ home lanes — is different.
Starting this season, Nordonia’s home lanes will switch from Roseland Lanes in Oakwood to North Woods Lanes, located at 10435 Valley View Road in Macedonia.
"That’s actually a big plus for everyone," said Knights girls coach Larry Strimple. "The facility is much more appealing to the bowlers."
On the boys side, Noel Liederbach was unable to return as boys coach. Thus, Ty Lachowski takes over as boys coach this winter. Strimple Is back for his third year as girls head coach.
A supervisor at Ferro Corporation, Lachowski is a 1985 graduate of Nordonia and has a long history coaching other sports with the Knights.
"I’ve done football and wrestling, but this is like my dream job," Lachowski said. "I’ve been bowling since I’ve been four. It’s one of my first loves."
Lachowski knows he inherits one of the best programs in the Ohio, but he also inherits one decimated by graduation. All-Ohioan Phil Toth and state team members Alex Cunningham, Nolan Postolka and Connor Novak all graduated last spring.
Despite these losses — and only having one returning senior — Lachowski is enthusiastic about the season.
"I’m looking for good things. We have a really good bunch of kids this year," Lachowski said. "The kids know that I’m pumped up."
Indeed, Lachowski said the team goals for this season remain high.
"We set three goals," Lachowski said. "One of them is, I would like to be the best spare-shooting team in Ohio. Making spares wins you games. We’re actually shooting to win the Suburban League and take the team to states."
While he’s inexperienced in the Suburban League, Lachowski said Strimple let him know the Knights should have a target on their backs.
"He’s told me ‘They’re going to be gunning for you because of the guys’ previous [success].’" Lachowski said.
Nordonia’s most experience bowler this winter will be senior Preston Keglovich, who finished 26th in Division I last season, as he rolled a 605 series at the state tournament.
"He’s more of a steady kid. He can start revving it up if he needs to," Lachowski said.
Senior Ryan Cunningham did not bowl last year, but had retuned to the team. First-year senior Austin Szczesniak also joins the Knights.
With no juniors on the team, the backbone for the Knights will be the sophomore class.
Sophomore Tyler Juriga rolled a game of 168 last year at states, while Aidan McFerren and Spencer Stehlick also return with varsity experience.
Fellow sophomores Charlie Bzdafka, Spencer Braund, Nick DiCarlo and Blake Jones bowled on junior varsity last year, while Zach Westbrooks is in his first year of bowling,
Lachowski said freshman Robert Wolf has the potential to break into the varsity lineup, while freshman Alex Smith is in his first year of bowling.
"I’ve got nine guys on this team that I think can bowl varsity for us," Lachowski said. "It’s going to be a big battle all season."
Lachowski noted he and Strimple will aid each other with both team. Strimple is looking for a better season, as Knights had only five girls on last year’s squad.
Although the Knight girls will again field only a varsity team this winter, Nordonia has eight girl bowlers, despite the loss of Hannah Luketic and Morgan Ritterberger to graduation.
"This year, they’ve all been practicing all summer, at least our returning players have," Strimple said. "Averages for all the returning players has been much better, so we’re already bowling better than last year.
Returning senior Kenzie Pitts "is bowling much better than last year," according to Strimple and could be Nordonia’s top bowler. Senior Payton Freyhauf joins as a first-year bowler.
Junior Samantha Lewis and sophomore Kara Freyhauf are Strimple’s other returning letterwinners. Junior Kenzie Allen, Marisa Hunt, freshman Emilie Cook and freshman Nekisha Aguila join the Knights.
Nordonia will open the season Saturday at the Suburban League Preseason Tournament at Sto-Kent Lanes in Stow.