A revamped varsity roster and a new coach are usually a recipe for rebuilding.
Don't tell that to the Marshalltown boys bowling team.
Bringing back two of its top six members from last year's Class 2A fifth-place finish at state, first-year frontman Jeremiah McKeever and his Bobcats have their sights set on a return trip to Des Moines and the school's third straight state appearance in their fourth season as a program.
While last year's quest for a state title came up short, McKeever believes it's well within reach again.
"I think at any given time we have the opportunity to go after that. That's one of my goals this year for (our team)," said McKeever.
Senior duo Dacoda Ewalt and Aaron Schwandt headline the returnees from last year's 18-2 club that posted the second best state qualifier score of 3,306.
"I'm really looking for (Dacoda and Aaron) to take the lead and propel the rest of the bowlers. They definitely have the ability to gear the team up for some wins," said McKeever, who must fill the void left by four departed seniors including Class 2A state champion Cody Taylor along with fellow two-year state participants D.j. Koger, Tre Blackford and Chris Steddom.
Ewalt, who claimed third in Des Moines a year ago and amassed game and series averages of 211.7 and 423.5 respectively, captured the CIML Iowa Conference individual title with a perfect 300 game. Recently brushing up against perfection, Grant Whitmore, one of the Bobcats' JV stalwarts last season, has already shown he's ready to make the leap this year. Whitmore rolled a 299 last Saturday in junior bowling league and is one of the primary reasons the Bobcats' preseason two-game average (207) is only five pins shy of last year's pace.
In addition to Schwandt (202.7), veterans Brett Wax (201.0) and Kyle Bartles (198.3) bolster the lineup, while freshman Brandon Freese is ready to rise into the top six.
"I think at any given time those guys can step it up," said McKeever. "(Brandon) is an up and comer and I think he fits well with the team."
Stepping it up will be a theme for the this year's squad as McKeever is trying a different approach this season in putting together the varsity and JV 1 lineups. While the top five spots will be determined by season average, the sixth spot will go to the bowler with the highest two game set at the practice prior to a meet.
Under this approach, any of the team's 31 members could earn their way into one of the top units - something that was nearly impossible for most under the previous method of season average.
"If they really want it they can go after it. That's one of my goals this year is to give more of an opportunity for different people to get on the varsity or JV 1," said McKeever.
Fort Dodge, eighth in the state last year, will be Marshalltown's main challenger in the conference while Mason City, Valley and Southeast Polk may also be tough outs for the Bobcats. Marshalltown opens the season Dec. 4 against Des Moines Roosevelt at the Totem Bowl, making Dec. 3 one of many practices that will have a little extra incentive.
"I think the kids are really excited about it," said McKeever of his new criteria.
"As long as they show up for practice prior to the meet, anybody has a chance - if they have a good night - to be on the varsity team."