ST. CHARLES – Crashing pins, clanging ball returns and flashy arcade sound effects all conspire to make noise an essential bowling backdrop.
At some houses, even extravagant carpeting seems to scream during the walk from the shoe rental station to the assigned lane.
St. Charles North boys bowlers don’t doubt things can get loud at St. Charles Bowl or elsewhere, but they also aren’t ones to raise their voices through the din. Senior leadership, as defined by Isaac Marshall, happens subtly. Players-only meetings near the snack bar need not apply.
“To me, it’s just about getting the whole team together and making sure nobody is being upset, trying to get them excited to be here,” Marshall said. “Maybe giving some advice on their shot and making sure that they’re listening and just following directions from coach.”
In the handful of years since North, St. Charles East and Geneva made like their brethren to the bowling-loving west and added the sport to the extracurricular slate, the North Stars boys have earned their share of accomplishments.
Marshall rolled a perfect 300 game at Rockford’s Don Carter Lanes at a tournament in January. In 2011-12, the North Stars advanced to the second day of the 24-team state tournament behind a senior-heavy group.
After stumbling during the state series last season as a young team trying to find its way, North enters the winter with a quiet confidence. Marshall and four-year teammate Bailey Sebastian are the elder statesmen of a core group that includes Zac Cook, Nate Ioriatti, Alex Kummet, Steven Leitner, Alex Mundt and Nate Slinker.
Like most teenagers, the North Stars veer off task from time to time, but don’t usually stray for long. Marshall and Ioriatti, Marshall’s assistant captain, need only point to a season-opening sweep of Bartlett to get North revved up again.
“A lot of the guys on the team, pretty much everybody knows what they’re doing for the most part,” said Ioriatti, a junior. “So the main goal is to just make sure that everybody’s focused and in the zone and we’re bowling as best as we can, because everybody here’s got the potential to bowl 280.”
Short of tacking a flourescent-colored ad to the St. Charles Bowl bulletin board, coach Jeff Fett still wouldn’t mind a bigger rah-rah guy on his side. Fett said it’s “really obvious” among bowler interactions when things are going well, but added the North Stars “tend to shut down a little bit” during adversity.
Maybe that’s by design.
“It’s not like we’ve got one standout guy and then four that are holding that one guy back,” Ioriatti said. “Everybody’s at the same level, so that keeps a really nice, even team aspect to this sport that’s usually generally judged pretty individually.”
The IHSA added a regional component to the state series this season, decreasing the number of sectionals statewide but increasing from two to six the number of teams who advance from them.
More wiggle room figures to bode well for bowlers with a tendency to grow tight. As Fett hopes the North Stars will learn, there’s no harm in opening up a bit.