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There’s plenty of reason for optimism for the Muscatine boys bowling team.

The Muskies are less than 10 months removed from a surprising fifth-place finish at the Class 3A state bowling tournament and will return five of their top six bowlers from that team.

“They’re still talking about it,” head coach Brian Chapman said. “The biggest thing they’ve talked about was beating Davenport North. We were (17) pins shy of them for fourth and they’re like man, we can beat them. We want to beat North this year.”

Chapman stopped short of saying a state title was the Muskies ultimate goal in 2019, but that doesn’t mean expectations aren’t sky high for Chapman’s squad.

“At least top three or four (in the state) this year,” Chapman said. “They can definitely do it. They’re not going to leave on anything on the table this year, I can tell you that.”

Tyler Harris is the lone senior lost from a season ago. The Muskies return sophomores Noah Miller and Marcus Madsen, juniors Caleb Sterbenz and Carter Riley and senior Devin LaRette.

“These guys have been bowling together Monday nights and they bowled in the City Tournament a few weeks ago,” Chapman said. "They’re looking pretty good. The five of them are strong all the way around.”

Miller led the Muskies at the state meet last season with a 13th place finish. Chapman said the sophomore lefty has only improved since then.

“He’s matured quite a bit since last year,” Chapman said. “He’s going to be a very good bowler in the next couple of years.”

Although the top five are set in stone, the Muskies are still in need of a sixth bowler to “come up from the jayvee and step up.”

Seniors Hunter Johnson and Ryan Collupy are both options, as is sophomore Ty Brooks for a Muscatine boys bowling team looking to build off last season’s top five finish.

Muskie girls eye return to state: Chapman knows the girls bowling team might not be in line for the same success it’s had the past two seasons. Jaelynn Klein, Ragan Carey and Kaitlyn Bierman all graduated from a team fresh off top three finishes in Class 3A in each of the last two seasons.

During the seniors’ four-year run, the Muskies were the only team in the state to record a match scoring average over 2,700 each season of that stretch.

“I don’t see the cohesiveness we had last year with some of the girls,” Chapman said. “I think we’re going to be OK. I don’t we’re going to have a great season like years past but we’re going to be OK.”

Still, the Muskies still return key pieces off last year’s second-place team.

Kayla Mauer, who placed third in Class 3A a season ago, is back as a junior as is senior Gabi Evans, who placed fourth last winter. The Muskies also return Emily Payne, who Chapman said didn’t bowl well at state but “had a great season.”

“I am just hoping we can make it to state,” Chapman said. “I don’t know if we’ll win the MAC but we have a good shot at going to state. That’s our whole goal.”

As for who will man the other three varsity spots, Chapman said seniors Donna Beauchamp and Gracie Brossart have the leg up on the competition, as does sophomore Emma Draubaugh.

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