One may want to give the members of the Tallmadge girls bowling team a pass if they were a bit on edge in recent weeks.
The Blue Devils captured the fifth and final qualifying spot at a district tournament last month.
On Saturday, Tallmadge returned to its nail-biting, stressful ways.
Just like their previous competition, it worked out well for the Blue Devils. As a result, they made history on the grandest stage of all.
Tallmadge concluded another strong season after finishing eighth at the Division I state tournament. The competition took place at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
When the Blue Devils competed at their district tournament last month, they grabbed the last spot by 29 pins. Columbus was a similar story as Tallmadge had a flair for the dramatic once again.
That’s because the Blue Devils qualified for the championship round by the skin of their teeth. Tallmadge, which advanced to the championship round for the first time in history, finished with a score of 3,026 to hold off ninth-place Canton McKinley by just 11 pins.
"We started strong in the first game  and then we struggled in the second game , which dropped us to 10th place," Tallmadge fifth-year head coach Scott Krainess said. "We improved a bit in the third game , but we were still in 10th."
Fortunately, Tallmadge saved its best for last with a 513 Baker series, including a 203 score in the second game. Thanks to that total, which was the fifth highest score in the Baker games, the Blue Devils secured the last spot.
"We talked to the team and reminded them that it was going to come down to Bakers," Krainess said. "As always, the message was, ‘Don’t give in and battle for each and every pin.’ The team was ecstatic."
Unfortunately, Tallmadge’s stay in the championship round was a brief one.
The Blue Devils lost to top-seeded Springfield 3-1 in their opening match of the championship round. Tallmadge won the first game 156-131 and lost the next three games (199-146, 209-151 and 185-166) in the best-of-five, Baker-game format. Gahanna Lincoln defeated Fairborn 3-1 to win the 16-team state title.
"These young ladies have never ceased to amaze me with their talent and admiration for each other," Blue Devils’ assistant coach Cindy Elliott said. "At the end of their journey, they were crying and I said, ‘It’s OK. You did a fantastic job.’ Their response was, ‘We’re not crying over bowling; we’re crying because we’re going to miss our bowling family.’ They have made lifelong friends and memories."
Senior Kirsten Moore concluded her groundbreaking career by receiving honorable mention to the All-Ohio team.
Moore, who is the Blue Devils’ first three-time state qualifier in school history, finished 12th out of 205 bowlers with a 590 series (215, 203 and 172) in the individual standings.
"What else can I say about Kirsten that hasn’t been already said?" Krainess asked. "In my opinion, she is the best bowler in the state of Ohio. She threw the ball well Saturday and is going to have a great collegiate career."
Senior Isabelle Hall was next for Tallmadge with a 529 series (195, 193 and 141). Like Moore, Hall constantly put up high scores for the team throughout the winter.
"The leaders all year have been Kirsten and Isabelle," Krainess said. "They were the rocks that we knew we could count on. They were there for every frame of every game.
"Isabelle Hall who has been a rock since the day she walked into our program."
Also competing for the Blue Devils were freshman Makayla Legg (182, 150 and 148), sophomore Aileena Sargeant (189) and freshman Dakota Taylor (177).
"Aileena and Dakota came off the bench to make a huge impact in the first game [of the qualifying round]," Krainess said. "Aileena did a great job. She is planning to spend six months as an exchange student so we will likely miss her next season. She will be sorely missed.
"When the season began we didn’t know exactly what we had. Makayla and Dakota really worked hard to get better and better. Coach Cindy and [assistant] Coach Rich [Moore] worked with them to the point that as freshmen, Makayla was starting in the state championships and Dakota played a huge role, as well."
Tallmadge’s other senior was Morgan Cool, who was a member of the team for the last two seasons. Another key member is junior Florence Drayer, who is expected to return to the Blue Devils next winter. "All of them worked extremely hard to improve each and every day," Krainess said. "Coach Cindy and Coach Rich did a great job working with them to get them better and better each and every week."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.