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The Nordonia High School boys bowling team is headed back to the state tournament.
The Knights are making their third straight trip to Columbus by virtue of their performance at the Division I district tournament Feb. 26. Nordonia finished first in the tournament, which was held at Hall of Fame Lanes in Canton.
As a result, the Knights won their third straight district championship.
The Nordonia boys entered the season with high hopes of returning to states. Despite a few ups and downs during the regular season, the Knights have found their groove during the last several weeks and now are in a great position to compete for a state championship.
"The team's vision quest has only one more challenge, and that's to win states," said Nordonia head coach Noel Liederbach. "If they can do that, then the storybook ending to their dream season will be complete."
Nordonia was consistent throughout the day. The Knights bowled 925 in the first regular game, followed by a score of 924 in the second game. They finished with a 990 in the third game, giving them a regulation match play total of 2,839 pins heading into the Baker Games.
Nordonia then rattled off Baker Game scores of 199-150-146-150-192-181 for a total of 1,018 pins. That, plus the Knights' regulation match play performance, resulted in a total of 3,857 pins.
Nordonia finished 17 pins ahead of second-place Mentor, which racked up 3,840 pins. Alliance placed third with 3,694 pins.
Springfield and Boardman tied for fourth place. Each team accounted for 3,693 pins. Cuyahoga Falls finished in sixth place with 3,683 pins.
Not only is Nordonia the district champion at the team level, but one of the Knights also won the district championship at the individual level. That individual is senior Phil Toth, who finished with a 752 series.
Toth started the day well and just got better from there. He rolled a 217 in his first game. Then he followed that with a 249 game before finishing on a true high note with a game of 276.
"Phil Toth stole the show," said Liederbach. "He beat everybody in the state by over 100 pins. It was a truly dominant performance."
Next for Nordonia was senior Conner Novak, who rolled games of 244-202-154 for a 600 series. (Novak ended up fourth in the final individual standings.) In addition, senior Nolan Postolka bowled games of 157-192-193 for a 542 series.
Senior Alex Cunningham also bowled three games for Nordonia. His totals in those games were 172-142-173 for a 437 series.
Junior Preston Keglovich rolled two games for the Knights, posting scores of 139 and 194 for a 333 series. Freshman Tyler Juriga rounded out the effort for Nordonia with a 135 game.
The top six teams at districts punched their ticket to the state tournament in Columbus next weekend. Nordonia will be seeking a bit of redemption at this year's state tournament. Last year, the Knights were highly confident entering the tournament.
However, Nordonia finished 10th overall, missing the top eight by 50 pins and a chance to qualify for match play. The Knights just aren't looking to finish in the top eight, though. They're looking to win a state championship.
"We still haven't peaked yet, either," said Liederbach. "We're still looking for all five starters to bowl well the same day, and we're hoping to clean up some of the simple mistakes."
The Knights' senior class is already the most accomplished bowling class in Nordonia school history. They've racked up over 25 tournament wins, four league titles, three sectional titles, three district titles, and now three state tournament appearances.
"We want to put it all together for one last run at a state title for our four seniors," said Liederbach.