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Last February, Louisa-Muscatine’s Whittney Morse was dominant on her way to an individual state title to lead the girls bowling team to a team title as well.

Even so, it’s clear that Morse has come back a better bowler in her junior season.

“She’s a little more consistent than last year,” said Louisa-Muscatine assistant coach Wes Morse, who coached the girls Saturday while head coach Al Jordan coached the boys in a separate tournament.

Whittney’s newfound consistency was evident in Saturday’s Muskie Invitational, where she was the top bowler in the three-class tournament at the Rose Bowl with a 462 two-game series. She bowled a 259 in the first game and a 203 in the second game.

Shadyn Bishop bowled a 411 two-game series while Lauren Bodman had a 382 and Madisyn Gerdts added a 297 to lead Louisa-Muscatine over Durant by a score of 2,676 to 2,229 in a two-team Class 1A field.

In Class 3A, the Muscatine boys bowling team used five scores above 370 to bowl its way to a second-place finish with a 3,020 score. The girls, meanwhile, were led by Gabi Evans’ 411 series, tying her for fifth with Bishop, to lead the Muskies to a third-place finish with a 2,521 total score in the Class 3A division of the Muskie Invitational.

“With the boys, I didn’t see as many open single pins as we have been seeing,” Muscatine bowling coach Brian Chapman said. “We shot 3,000 today so I’m good. For the girls, we have some tweaks and minor things to do but they’re looking good.

“They’re improving each week.”

Still, even with area teams across the board performing well at a stacked invitational, it was Whittney Morse who stole the show. Wes believes she’s less tentative than in years past after dealing with an injury in a tendon in her right forearm for the first two years of her high school career.

That, along with her ability to read lanes and make adjustments, led to a big day Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

“This year she’s more confident,” Wes Morse said. “I put a brace on her arm and that helps her be a little freer. She’s steadier, slower and rolling the ball more consistently.”

However, with each passing meet, Wes Morse feels the other three returners off the state title team, Bishop, Bodman and Gerdts, are improving with each passing meet.

The L-M assistant feels there is still work to do to get back to a state title for a third consecutive year, but if newcomers Choral Hahn and Lily Fischer — who shot a 227 and 193 respectively — continue to improve the Falcons will be “tough to beat.”

Meanwhile, for the Muskies, Chapman likes what he’s seen so far this season out of the boys, who have now topped 3,000 in two consecutive meets.

Carter Riley led the way with a 429 two-game series while Marcus Madsen added a 409. Devin LeRette bowled a 393, Noah Miller bowled a 386 and Caleb Sterbenz bowled a 371.

The Muskies also bowled well in Bakers, totaling games of 264 and 223.

“It’s the same guys (as always) and they know what they’re doing,” Chapman said. “They can bowl. You can definitely see the energy go up on (Bakers). They just have a lot of fun with it.”

Outside of Evans’ fifth-place finish, Kayla Maurer bowled a 371 series, Emily Payne added 303, Donna Beauchamp had 269 and Gracie Brossart 242 for the Muskie girls.

After struggling to a 148 in her opening game, Maurer caught fire in game two and bowled a 223, aided by four strikes in the final four frames. Still, she remained stone-faced as she flawlessly closed out the game.

“Kayla’s facial expression does not change,” Chapman said with a smile. “I see no emotion from her, maybe every once in a while I’ll see a smirk.”

Overall, Chapman is pleased with the way his teams have performed through four meets. He sees a boys bowling team that’s getting stronger after posting two consecutive scores over 3,000. He’s seen good things with the girls, too, but noted they must find a reliable sixth bowler.

Davenport North won the 3A boys with a total score of 3,248 while Ottumwa won the girls with 2,287. In 2A, Ottumwa won the boys division with a 3,123 total score and Clinton won the girls division with 2,772.

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