ST. CHARLES – Matt Bowman and Matt Lindberg glanced at each other early in their sophomore years at Geneva. A few moments later, the childhood friends committed to one of their school’s newest sports on a whim.
“Curiosity, you know,” Bowman said. “We weren’t really doing anything, so it was, ‘Hey. Join the bowling team?’ ”
Now seniors, Bowman and Lindberg have nearly doubled their individual career-highs, served as two-year captains and given many an underclassman rides to and from St. Charles Bowl.
Coming in, they thought they’d be encountering a slightly more sophisticated version of the Pepsi-and-hot-dog leagues of their youth. Going out? Well, let’s just say neither Viking is ready for that.
Though they aren’t quite humming dirges at the lanes these days – how could you when there are pop songs and popcorn? – Bowman, Lindberg and fellow senior co-captain Kyle Kallhauge still know the score without glancing at the screen above them.
Saturday’s St. Patrick Sectional at Habetler Bowl in Chicago might mark their final six games together. The top two teams advance to the IHSA State Meet at downstate St. Clair Bowl later this month, and the Habetler field includes Upstate Eight Conference co-champions St. Charles East and Lake Park. Geneva finished eighth in the nine-team league this season.
Grinning, Vikings coach Jordan Zimberoff admits bowling is “not an adrenaline sport,” but that doesn’t exempt it from other slumps, struggles and inconsistencies found elsewhere in athletics.
“We have a really good team, we just don’t really perform well at the same time, so that’s what we’re really hoping to find,” Lindberg said. “We all have very solid averages and we’re hoping to just really put it together for sectionals. The best way we can do that is just not let our season really get to our heads and just kind of bowl our best.”
Geneva scored the second-highest among teams in the afternoon session at the Lake Park Sectional last season. The Vikings finished seventh out of 13 teams, with Kallhauge’s 1,235, six-game series meriting consideration for a possible at-large invitation as an individual.
A bowler since age 5, Kallhauge didn’t make the state cut. After joining the team as a junior – and not because he had Zimberoff as a history teacher – he’s at peace with whatever happens Saturday.
Kallhauge, whose 280 high-game this season edges Bowman (279) and Lindberg (269), hopes his classmates are content with their finales, too, whether those come in Chicago or one week later.
“Yeah, they’re probably more consistent than I am,” Kallhauge said. “I just bowl for fun, but since I’ve been bowling so long, it kind of works out well.”
Geneva’s lineup also includes senior Kyle McNeil, junior Jason Soto and sophomores Evan Schmidt and Mitch Spencer. Zimberoff must choose five to bowl at sectionals, but the Vikings are accustomed to bigger number-crunching by now.
The team, in its fourth season, had a program-high 23 bowlers try out for the varsity and JV, about 10 more than the girls team coached by Lisa Gillette.
“We encourage anyone to try out. It’s always nice, especially since it’s rather new at Geneva, just getting new kids to try out,” Lindberg said. “It is very fun, but it also is very competitive.”
Years after his humble and casual beginnings, Lindberg has left highs around the 130s behind.
Like many of his brethren, Lindberg owns his own bowling ball. He vows this weekend won’t be the last time he uses it.
“I hear a lot of stories of when you’re going to college, you kind of stop all the sports you’ve been doing in high school,” Lindberg said. “I hope to continue on with bowling and learn a lot from what I’ve just gone through with this team.”