Posted with permission from High School Sports

There's a lot that goes into hitting 10 bowling pins that each stand 15 inches tall and 4.75 inches wide.

A bowler must combat lane conditions such as oil thickness and patters.

In tournaments, bowlers must also shake off the pressure weighing down on their shoulders and nervousness. And when it comes to the stepladder format, it is a whole new ballgame.

Katie Robb of Kingsway, the reigning two-time South Jersey Times Girls Bowler of the Year, earned the No. 3 seed in the stepladder portion of the NJSIAA state individual tournament a year ago. After finishing in eighth place in 2015-16, it was a new feeling and experience as she didn't reach the single-elimination tournament before and fell to fourth-seeded Julianna Forbes of Brick Township to settle for fourth place. Robb said the "whole mental side of bowling really got over me".

But this offseason, Robb participated in tournaments across the country to showcase her talents. Most notably, she bowled at the Junior Gold Championship in Texas to work on the mental aspect and putting herself in serious and nerve-racking situations. And according to her head coach at Kingsway, Mike Mulligan, that's exactly where she's thrived over the last year.

"What I've seen her get better at is her mental maturity," Mulligan said. "I've seen that develop since she was a freshman. I just had this discussion with her, and you can find out a lot about a bowler after he or she leaves an open frame. Katie gets stronger and the mental aspect of her game has grown because if she's missing or not feeling the lane conditions, or the patters, she'll adjust to improve."

Mulligan told a little anecdote about Diante Fields, the boys bowling champion from Kingsway in 2012. Fields didn't start out well, but thrived when it mattered most.

"I'm hoping that's the course Katie will go on because she definitely has the mental fortitude for that," Mulligan added. "When it comes to the stepladder tournament, it's a crapshoot. In the offseason, Katie did a really good job with identifying the small little details. She's thinking about how she can make a quicker adjustment."

Robb, now a senior, fell to Forbes, 255-214. Robb rolled a 279-213-225-216-238-216-1,387 in qualifying. She mustered a 201 average score per game in the regular season as she continued to get better as the year wore on. After finishing in eighth and fourth in the last two seasons in the state tournament, Robb is looking to finish to first in 2017-18.

"I definitely came a long way after making eighth in the state and I wasn’t really happy with that," Robb told this past March. "I wanted to make it to the stepladder (this past year). That was my goal. I just had one bad game in the stepladder cost me the whole thing, but I was still happy to get there.

"...I’m definitely looking to go from fourth to first."

When Robb was a sophomore, Kingsway as a team struggled to a 2-5-5 record. Last season, Robb helped the Dragons to a respectable 7-4-1 turnaround. There's no doubt she's aiming to up the team win tally as well. Mulligan says Robb has been a tremendous teammate and another coach in the bowling alley.

"When she entered the team a few years ago she was already on a winning team," Mulligan said. "I think at that time we were already three-time division champs and we were vying for a fourth. She came into that winning culture which helped but then everyone graduated. She kind of carried the torch. She's almost like a player-coach now. She will work with her teammates and they'll go out bowling and she'll help them with techniques. She understands the game and I trust every decision she makes and she gives them the right advice. I think they look up to her."

For Mulligan himself, he's had to go through something he's never had to do before -- especially with coaching bowling. He's had to make tons of cuts this year with a record-number of students trying out. And that has a lot to do with Robb.

"A lot of the time I'll have some students come and tryout and they don't necessarily take the game that seriously until they see someone like Katie and they see the success that she has and what comes with that," Mulligan said. "I've been coaching about 15 years now and I had 50-plus kids come out for the bowling teams this year and I really think that Katie had something to do with that. I've never had to make that deep of cuts before. I do attribute that to the bowling team getting a name. Really, she's taken the program to the next step in that regards and has been an intricate part in name recognition."

With only one more scholastic season left for Robb, which begins Friday against Gloucester Catholic, the 2017-18 campaign will be an emotional one for Mulligan.

"It's unfortunate that I'm going to lose her after this year," the coach said. "It's been a great few years and everything she's done for the team speaks for itself."