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All(ey) in the family

About 20 years ago, Rick and Maria Plasch joined the Moose and Meeses bowling league at Village Lanes in Superior. Little did they know they had started an influx of Plasch family members into bowling.

About 20 years ago, Rick and Maria Plasch joined the Moose and Meeses bowling league at Village Lanes in Superior. Little did they know they had started an influx of Plasch family members into bowling.

Today, 15 members of the extended Plasch family bowl in Moose and Meeses. Of the 12 teams in the league, six contain at least two members of the Plasch clan.

"His cousin, Theresa Sutherland," said Maria Plasch pointing at her husband, Rick, "20 years ago asked Rick and I to bowl. Then we asked a friend of ours to bowl, and that's how we got our team."

Plasch said it didn't take much prodding for them to sign up. It also didn't take long for Plasch and her husband to recruit other family members. They began with Maria Plasch's brother and things snowballed from there.

"Each year it just grew," Plasch said. "We kept on asking and every year or every two years, as the kids got older, we started asking our children and then nieces and nephews."

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With Maria and Rick Plasch at the head of the family, the group of Plaschs now bowling in the league includes a handful of sons and nieces, two cousins, two daughters-in-law, a-brother-in-law and a few other more intricately related family members.

"There's probably another son of ours we're hoping to get on next year," Maria Plasch said. "After that we'll have all the boys on a team, all five boys."

Maria and Rick Plasch were responsible for getting most of their relatives into the bowling league, but Sutherland is actually the longest-standing member.

"I joined this league in '79," Sutherland said. "I think I am the oldest of all."

"She's the originator," Maria Plasch said.

"I started with (recruiting) you guys and then we continued," Sutherland said.

Even before Sutherland drew her into the Moose and Meeses league, bowling had been a part of life for Maria Plasch. She was introduced to the sport at a young age by her parents and developed an appreciation for it. Her husband's parents were also avid bowlers, so it was natural for Maria and Rick Plasch to keep the family tradition alive.

"It's just been a family thing, and that's how we grew," Plasch said.

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Rick, Maria and Theresa Plasch play for the Arrowhead Milk team, which also includes close friends Dean and Joanne Salo. The Plaschs and Salos are not related, but Rick and Maria Plasch still treat them like family.

"The people that we got married with in Vegas (Dean and Joanne Salo) are on our team too. That's how close it is," Maria Plasch said. "We say they're our cousins, but they're actually not."

But that isn't all the Plaschs say when they bowl every other Saturday.

"When we play Arrowhead Milk we always say, 'We hope your milk gets curdled,'" said Kryssi Plasch, a daughter-in-law to Maria and Rick Plasch.

"Yes, they say derogatory things," Maria Plasch laughed. "They cheer when the other team doesn't do well."

She said good-natured ribbing constantly takes place among the different teams. For example, if a member of the family throws a gutter ball, the others cheer. Kryssi Plasch and Heather Callery, a niece to Rick Plasch, try to distract other teams by putting "hexes" on them when they bowl.

"I can't tell you what we do, that would give our secrets away," Kryssi Plasch said, "but I know it drives everyone crazy."

Opposing bowlers in the league often delight in vexing their family members, especially if it leads to a victory.

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"It's a big joke, but we're a very, very competitive family," Plasch said.

"We are all a competitive bunch," Kryssi Plasch agreed. "We all love to play Rick's team and beat them. That is always our highlight -- or low-light if we lose -- of the season."

In past years, couples were sometimes split, with a husband on one team and a wife on another. That division increased the friendly trash talk, but Plasch said those days are gone. All husbands and wives are now on the same teams. The teasing has not subsided, though, because for most of the bowlers, having a good time is just as important as getting a strike.

"The nice thing about these couple leagues is it's not every weekend, it's every other weekend," Maria Plasch said. "It makes you socialize."

The Plasch family may turn to bowling as a time to get together and have fun, but bowling in Superior has been dwindling overall. Plasch said she has seen the number of bowlers in Superior drop in recent years, but she doesn't necessarily think it is because the sport is declining in popularity.

"When we lost Allouez Bowl, I think that was a direct impact," she said.

According to Plasch, the 12-lane bowling alley served a portion of Superior that now may no longer bowl. She said the number of bowlers may also have declined because many young bowlers got their start at the lanes in Allouez.

Over time, Plasch thinks bowling may recover. She said the remaining alleys in Superior are very willing to work with bowlers to form leagues and to accommodate them. More importantly, Plasch said bowling is a good way to spend time with the family.

"I think it's a great family sport," Plasch said. "You can bring your children here if you choose to, and we do. We have seven grandkids and they come and watch."

"And you keep close," she continued. "This is a real great sport to keep close because you are so one-to-one."

Emily Kram covers sports. Call her at (715) 395-5018 or e-mail ekram@superiortelegram.com .

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