HEATH – A bowler is never satisfying without a few tweaks and adjustments, but what happens just off the lane is what put Licking Valley sophomore Olivia Strait to rest.
Strait rushes to Licking County League Player of the Year honors, and she thanks teammates for her success. Street is surrounded by classmates.
“I have new friends on the team and in the same class. Last year I was the youngest on the team, so it was usually awkward,” Strait said. “They talk to me and they help me. That makes it easier.”
Convenience is what often makes Strait the sport. Her LCL average recently plunged just below 200 for the first time this season and she came into play on Tuesday with a 23-pin lead over Lakewood’s Becca Price.
An impressive run to start the season included a 233 against Granville and a 278 against New Lexington. She pitched games of 190 and 179 at Park Lanes on Tuesday against Zanesville.
“I saw a lot of people looking at me (during that 278), and I was a little shocked,” Strait said. “It made me a little nervous, but I did my best. I probably have to get used to that.”
Strait was LCL runner-up to Heath’s Kelsey Wilson, averaging 195 against Wilson’s 197 last season. She later placed sixth in the Division II District Tournament, a 564 series that rounded out her 12-pin shy of state qualification.
Valley coach James Erlenbach, a multi-300-game and 800-series veteran, acknowledged that the area is getting attention. If Strait has a shot at the Division II state tournament, eyes will turn to her.
“Once you’re on the run, everyone will be looking at you,” Erlenbach said. “After a while they’ll know who you are.”
Nott had a high game of 113, Holland games of 106 and 104 and Bell 104 for the Panthers against Zanesville. They all get wet feet, but they’ve given Strait a calming influence.
Valley’s standout lately has been a bit shy of her incredible standards as she was neck-and-neck earlier in the season with LCL boys’ leader Hunter Weber, of Lakewood, at 204. If Strait finds a groove, watch out.
“Even with me, I’ve been bowling since I was 4, and I have those moments,” Erlenbach said.
“I watch her in practice, have her adjust just before the match starts,” he added. “Once she’s up and running, she’s on.”
Jaylee Martin led the Valley boys with games of 171 and 172 against Zanesville. Trevor Tucker followed with 135 and 144 and Dallas Young with 130.
Strait is still challenged with a game against Heath next Tuesday and the postseason is upon us in February. Granville coach Al Sowards gives every LCL coach a weekly update of the player standings, but it’s not something Strait is working on.
“Normally they don’t even tell me, but I don’t think it pressures me,” Strait said. “I’m just doing my best.”
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Licking Valley’s Olivia Strait Keeps Relaxing Through Bowling Season