Up until 2010, Macomb Dakota’s boys bowling team had never won a state title.
Fast-forward to 2012, and Dakota now has two state titles to its credit, as the Cougars won their second-consecutive Division I crown March 2 in Battle Creek.
The Cougars have now finished in the top two spots in the state for three years in a row, as Dakota was the runner-up in the 2010 tournament.
“It’s never been done before,” Dakota coach Joe Berak said of the team’s successful three-year run. “It’s very exciting. We graduated five seniors last year, so essentially with a new team, (it) makes it even more satisfying. We were in the state tournament last year, and some people knew about our JV team, and they said, ‘We’ve seen what your JV team can do.’
“I think the word was out they had major game and were pretty strong. I couldn’t be happier for the boys.”
In order to earn the top spot this time around, the Cougars had to knock off three teams seeded above them in the tournament.
Dakota, which qualified as the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Canton by 200 pins in the final game to retain its title.
Earlier in the day, the Cougars beat the No. 1 seed Davison in the semifinal and No. 4 seed Detroit Catholic Central in the quarterfinals.
Given that Dakota competed in a region that included the likes of Anchor Bay, Stevenson, Chippewa Valley and Utica, Berak believes that it is quite the challenge to even have the opportunity to qualify for a state cut.
“It’s almost harder to get out of our own region than it is to make the top eight at states,” he said. “I was just so happy to get out of our region. Once you’re there (at states), I’m not trying to say it’s easier, but it’s not quite as bad. It’s not easy, but our region is ridiculously difficult to get out of.”
Given that Dakota was coming off two successful seasons in a row, the bar for the 2011-12 version of the Cougars was already set high before they even bowled a frame this season. But according to Berak, his team embraced the increased expectations.
“When you have success like that, I can’t say it’s expected, but I think they had something to prove,” he said. “They said, ‘I’ve got game; I want to show it, and this is the stage I can show it on.’ If you take away the state tournament and the state title, this squad this year won more tournaments than all the previous years combined, which was like ‘wow.’ It’s off the charts in my opinion.”
The Cougars relied on a balanced attack to become the top Division 1 boys team in the state, and on their journey to a state title, the Cougars received contributions from a variety of bowlers, including seniors Nick Mikaelian, Shawn Worth, Danny Eovaldi and Kevin Walker, as well as juniors Josh Pointer, Austin Muchez and Mike Jachcinski. Freshman Justin Taylor also helped Dakota claim the top spot in the state.
While two straight state titles may be enough to satisfy him for the time being, Berak admits that he is already thinking about the possibilities the future could hold.
“We always plan ahead,” he said. “I’m always looking at next year’s squad and thinking, ‘These guys could do it.’ It’s possible to three-peat. Why not? Don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but these kids seem to pull it off and bring it to another level.”
The girls bowling team also fared well this season, making the state cut for the first time in the history of the program. Dakota finished as quarterfinalists in the state finals competition in Battle Creek.