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Ice Breaker: Taylor Nutt, Kendra Denhof are yin and yang of Ravenna girls bowling

Bulldogs freshman and senior complement each other well and their teammates do their parts as well.

Bowling and the Nutt family name are synonymous in Ravenna. The family used to own and operate Ravenna Bowl, quite literally a second home.

Jeff Nutt is the Ravenna High School girls bowling coach and he’s a very accomplished bowler with dozens of 300 games on his resume.

There is one thing he cannot always solve when it comes to bowling, however: Freshman daughter Taylor Nutt. She’s been the top bowler in the West Michigan Conference this season, girl or boy, with a 189 average. But everybody struggles at one point or another in this sport. And when interactions at bowling matches happen between father and daughter, let’s just say they seldom go well.

“That’s true, that is true,” Jeff Nutt said with a hearty laugh, before adding, “because we get into arguments if I do (coach Taylor). That’s a true story.

“It happened already today. ‘Go see that guy over there,'” Nutt said during a match last Monday at Northway Lanes, gesturing a few lanes over to brother and Ravenna boys bowling coach Jason Nutt.

Ravenna’s 2023-24 girls bowling team is pictured with coaches Jeff Nutt, far left, and Jason Nutt, far right, after a West Michigan Conference dual against Orchard View Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, at Northway Lanes in Muskegon, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

The person who may provide the most support to Taylor Nutt on the lanes is Ravenna senior teammate Kendra Denhof, a verbal leader for the Bulldogs who has a way of calming things down.

Denhof is a strong bowler in her own right with a 156 average on a team that ran away with the WMC overall title this season. With junior Emma Herremans and seniors Zoe Marsman and Alison Phillips contributing as well, this Ravenna squad is one to watch.

Ravenna rolled through conference duals this season with a 15-1 record. In Monday’s WMC tournament at Northway Lanes, the Bulldogs posted 2755 points to win going away. Individually, Nutt was runner-up with a two-game total of 495, behind an eye-popping 575 performance by tourney champ Breanna Twining of Oakridge. Herremans tied for fourth at 488, followed by Denhof in sixth at 487.

The Bulldogs are eyeing another title today in the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament at Northway Lanes before they look to make some serious noise in the MHSAA state tournament that begins next week. Next week’s Division 4 regional and the March 1-2 state finals are both being hosted by Northway, which is the home house for Ravenna and other WMC teams.

The question has been posed: Is this Ravenna team capable of winning a state title?

“We’ve got to have all five of them show up. If they can get what they’re all capable of, then absolutely,” Jeff Nutt said. “There’s games that we bowl 850s, whatever — that’s good enough. If you look at the state finals and the bracket play as it goes through, if you can shoot 800 for a team, that’s what the scores are in that range. But you’ve got to be able to get all five of them (performing as capable).”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Taylor Nutt and Denhof picked up bowling at much different times in their lives — Nutt as soon as she could walk practically and Denhof her freshman year. They’re also quite different at this point personality-wise — Denhof is much more vocal and Nutt is on the quiet side.

But, in many ways, they have a lot if common. Consider:

  • Both boast great GPAs: Denhof with a 4.009 and Nutt a 3.95.
  • Both are very good multi-sport athletes: Denhof will be a four-year varsity starter in softball and Nutt will be joining the Bulldogs’ squad this spring after playing travel ball and Ravenna Junior Elite. Denhof also played volleyball for a year and Nutt is currently dual-sporting in bowling and basketball. Jeff Nutt notices a big difference in multi-sport athletes when it comes to their compete level. “I think it’s huge,” he said. “You just look at Emma Herremans, for example. She’s only bowled for three years now and you can just tell with her that she’s been in battles before on other sports where she’s been challenged and she can handle pressure. Same with Kendra and Taylor — they’ve played travel softball and they’ve played whatever, so they’re used to playing in big games. They don’t get rattled as easy as some of the other girls. You can see it.”
  • Both recently celebrated birthdays: Denhof just turned 18 and Nutt 15.
  • Both have younger sisters who look up to them along with very supportive parents: Denhof’s parents are Fred Denhof and Christie Simons; Nutt’s parents are Jeff and Ashley Nutt.

Kendra Denhof, who was Ravenna’s homecoming queen last fall, is considering attending college in Florida where she plans to become an ultrasound technician. She is a feisty and versatile softball player, moving around from second base to catcher to outfield for a Bulldogs team that has become elite with a run to the Division 3 state semifinals last season.

Photo by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark

Nutt has plenty of time to figure out what she wants to do after high school. She’s making a name for herself in bowling already, but she truly is a multi-sport athlete. In softball, she plays outfield. In basketball, she’s a guard. In volleyball, she’s a setter and back-row player.

In bowling, Nutt flirted with a 300 game in a league dual against Montague last Wednesday at Sherman Bowling Center, where she shot strikes in her first nine frames before leaving the 7 pin on her 10th ball. She finished with a 277, which broke Denhof’s single-game school record of 246.

On Jan. 31, Nutt shot a pair of 232 games in a WMC dual against Whitehall at Northway Lanes for a school-record 464 series.

While Taylor Nutt has enjoyed a great freshman season, Denhof and the rest of their teammates have played important roles as well.

“We’ve got some returners that have kind of carried the ship,” Jeff Nutt said. “When Taylor started, I could really tell she felt a little bit of pressure coming in because people knew she was a pretty decent bowler. I think she was really nervous — it took her a bit to get going and it was good that some of those other girls would carry the team until she kind of got things going.”

Photo by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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