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Lake Zurich boys bowling coach Peter Kupfer was looking for the right time to strike with an idea for one of his freshman bowlers.
“Connor (Kovanda) started the season out bowling very well for the JV,” Kupfer said. “We’ve been looking for an opportunity to try him (on varsity). We usually don’t put freshmen up on the varsity.”
The time came on Dec. 6, when Lake Zurich — sitting in first place in the Northern Illinois Bowling Conference — bowled against Vernon Hills in a dual meet. Kovanda made the move look good, leading the Bears’ five-bowler contingent with a 661 series that included an eight-strike 265 game. Lake Zurich lost the match 3,040-3,037.
Kupfer would’ve made the move sooner. He just didn’t want to ruin a good thing.
“Sometimes, when you take a kid that’s bowling well on JV and put him on varsity, for whatever reason, they bowl horribly,” Kupfer said.
Kovanda didn’t find out until the day of the match that he would be making his varsity debut.
“The first game I felt pressure,” said Kovanda, who opened with a 193. “I didn’t want to hurt the team. But I was very focused and I thought I bowled well.”
Kovanda impressed his coach and his teammates, including anchor Mike Schmitt, who finished third at the state meet last year and second the year before.
“I know firsthand what it’s like. When I was up on varsity (as a freshman), I was a nervous wreck,” said Schmitt, who won the prestigious Rockford Guilford Invitational on Dec. 7. “I went up to him before the match and just told him to play his game and stay calm.”
Kovanda is a power bowler who strings strikes together. He said that the one area where he struggles is converting spares.
“Especially the 10 pin (far right side),” Kovanda said. “Generally, I throw it too far out and it goes in the gutter. But I’m getting more consistent.”
Despite his early success, Kovanda isn’t necessarily on the varsity to stay. At the Rockford Guilford Invitational, he bowled in the junior varsity competition.
“It’s good to bowl with both teams,” said Kovanda, who began bowling when he was 8 years old. “It’s kind of less and more pressure and learning how to handle it better.”