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After missing out on state for the first time in years, the Derby boys and girls bowling teams have their sights set on success this season, buoyed with a plethora of experience and a familiar yet new face at head coach.

Two-year Panther assistant coach Brent Cunningham takes the reins from Allie Tatrow, who left the team after last season to pursue her own professional bowling career.

“Coach Tatrow gave me a call when she knew that she was leaving and asked if I wanted to step up and I said absolutely,” Cunningham said. “I’m excited to take the reins and run it myself.”

As mentioned earlier, the cupboard is chock-full of experienced varsity bowlers for both the boys and girls teams. The Panther boys return all but two of their varsity bowlers from last year while the girls return everyone except the graduated Danielle De Bruyn.

With that much experience and talent returning, Cunningham said that his teams will have their eyes fixed on a return to the state bowling tournament in Wichita in March.

“I’m expecting some big things from us this year,” Cunningham said. “Missing out on state last year has to be a motivation for us. We want to get back to where we belong. I think it’s a very reasonable goal.”

The Panther boys are led by junior Connor Hare who comes into this season as the only Panther with state experience after making the tournament his freshman year before missing out last season.

Cunningham will be looking to Hare, along

with fellow varsity returner and junior Andrew Harden, to take

a strong leadership role on a team that as of publication will not have any seniors returning.

“I’m expecting him to step up and be a leader,” Cunningham said. “Connor has been on varsity since he was a freshman and, in the beginning, he was kind of shy and quiet but last year we saw more vocalness out of him to go along with the great example that he sets as a bowler. He’s just very knowledgeable about the game and is really smart about his play.”

Sophomores Jason Miller and Alex Hedden will also be key returners that will help carry the varsity load this season after solid freshmen seasons.

“Those are all guys who were varsity last year as underclassmen so they’ll come into this season with a lot of experience,” Cunningham added.

For the girls, junior Kaitlyn Dixon is expected to take over the top spot for the Panthers after a strong sophomore season. Dixon ended the regular season strong by winning Derby’s home triangular last season.

“I think a lot of it is the way she presents herself,” Cunningham said. “She’s very cool, calm and collected and sure, sometimes things don’t go her way but she’s fine. She handles it. She’s also a good leader. I have high expectations for her this year.”

Dixon will be joined by fellow juniors Michaela and Alexis Sutton and Tori Rhynard on a Derby girls team that hopes to continue to grow throughout this season.

As of publication, it’s still unknown what new faces may make their way to varsity ranks of Derby bowling as tryouts have yet to be held but, if the numbers from the preseason tryout meeting are any indication, interest is strong.

“There were a lot of new faces that turned in a bowling try-out sheet whenever I had my try-out meeting,” Cunningham said. “So I’m kind of curious to see how it will all play out.”

Derby will open the season at the Newton Triangular on Jan. 10. Its home events will fall on Jan. 20 and Feb. 13.

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