Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. It's a phrase the Hubbard girls bowling team knows all too well.
For the past two seasons, the Eagles have advanced to the state tournament and made it to the final match, only to come in as runners-up. In 2010, when senior Brittany Ferrara was a freshman, the team finished in the final four, but lost in the semifinal.
Needless to say for her senior year, Ferrara is ready to finally be the bride.
"Coming in second is getting old," she said. "I think it's time to get over the hump."
In 2010, the Eagles made it to the semifinals, losing to Boardman in three matches. In 2011, Hubbard got one step farther, advancing to the final match, but lost to St. Mary's Memorial in four games. Then came last year - another second-place finish, but this time to Coldwater.
"We are tired of the silver, we are ready for the gold," Hubbard coach Carol Kozbial said. "We are going for the gold this year. We have a pair of state runners-up trophies. We have two silvers, now we need a gold one to go with it."
The Eagles are primed to make a fourth trip to Columbus as they return Ferrara, twins Jenna and Sarah Wise, Lauren Miller, Christina Leckfor and Miranda Romano - all who were members of last year's state team. Romano is the lone junior as the rest are in their senior years. Ferrara returns the best average on the team at 217. Between the six, the team average returning this year is 176.
Though the Eagles have experience for days in terms of bowling, something this team hasn't experienced much is losing. In four seasons, not counting the state matches, the Eagles have only lost twice. The second loss came this past week against a very tough Austintown Fitch squad, dropping the Eagles to 4-1.
"Besides the Fitch match, we've been bowling very well this season," Kozbial said. "I wasn't upset we lost. It was by how much. But the girls learned a lot from the loss, which I think will help."
While learning to lose keeps a team grounded, Kozbial and Ferrara both said the biggest thing the Eagles need to conquer to get back to the state tournament is one of the basics in the sport of bowling - picking up spares.
"Strikes are great for high scores, but spares win championships," Kozbial said. "We've learned in the last two years, we have to get those spares. That's what is going to get you the win. It's going to take good skills, good spare shooting and hitting your marks. It's good skills and good spare shooting that get you the championships."
The Eagles will get plenty of chances to fine tune their spare shooting. Along with its regular season schedule, Hubbard is bowling in four additional tournaments around the state. This not only helps get as many bugs out before sectionals in February, but it helps build endurance for a grueling state tournament. Ferrara feels if the Eagles can learn the lessons, and keep improving, then there is a very good chance Hubbard can make it back to the state final for the third year in a row.
"I would say yes we could," Ferrara said. "It would take a lot of practice and working together as a team, but I think it's possible."