Friday, November 17, 2017

2017-18 Preseason All-State Team

Lots of returning talent coming back; none of these names should come as much of a surprise to anyone. Just a note: I decided that freshmen shouldn't be on this list before ever throwing a shot at the high school level, even though there are 1 or 2 out there that probably merit inclusion.  We'll get to them later on the preview calendar.

PRESEASON BOYS ALL-STATE TEAM

Sam Bortnick, Senior, East Brunswick
If the only bowling I'd ever seen Bortnick do was the job he did as anchor in the TOC last year, leading his team to a championship, that might be enough for this spot.  Throw in two full seasons averaging over 220 and it's a no-brainer.

Matt Burzynski, Senior, Dickinson
After averaging 220 in the regular season, the lefty tore up the postseason, carding sets of 772-774-761 over sectionals, team states and individuals, and helping carry his team to a strong 5th place at states.

Anthony Mathis, Sophomore, Cherry Hill East
Just a freshman in 2016-17, Mathis burst on the scene with a huge 219 average and shot 711 to lead his team to the state finals in an impossibly tough sectional. Just missed the stepladder at individuals with a big 734-684.

Joey Ocello, Junior, St. Rose
After a fantastic sophomore season that included a 300 game, a 799 series, a 226 average and a runnerup finish in the Shore Singles event, Ocello spent the offseason crushing tournaments, and beating over 1000 competitors in the National Junior Gold U-20 division despite being one of the youngest in the event.

James Stoveken, Junior, Woodbridge
The national career leader in high school 300 games is only halfway through his career, and the idea that he might get even better is more than a little scary.  Stoveken averaged 226 in conference games, won the GMC tournament and the Central Jersey Winter Classic and his four postseason series were 729-760-761-812.  These two-handers are here to stay, huh?

Evan Weinberg, Senior, Jonathan Dayton
Weinberg's been a top flight talent since before he started high school, and he keeps getting better.  In 2017, he raised his average 12 pins to 222, put up good numbers for his team in the postseason (668-671), and made the final stepladder after shooting 738-717 at individuals.

PRESEASON GIRLS ALL-STATE TEAM

Four of the five girls who made the individual stepladder in 2017 are back.  Could be quite a few big scores on the girls' side this year.

Julianna Forbes, Senior, Brick Township
Simply a fantastic tournament bowler, winning the Wheeler, firing 685 at sectionals and 661-714 at individuals as well as winning two stepladder matches.  Forbes' regular season average dipped a bit from her sophomore season, but there's no denying her talent or her presence on this team.

Lanasia Neal, Senior, South Plainfield
One of the best careers in recent memory will end with a victory tour in 2018.  After winning the individual championship in 2016, Neal shot an afternoon 734 to make it back to the stepladder in 2017.  She also had the high series at the James, came in second in North Jersey Singles, averaged 206 in the GMC and won the conference tournament.

Kamerin Peters, Sophomore, Toms River North
After as dominant a freshman season as we've ever seen, including a 215 average and a postseason of 697-722-773-730, what could Peters do for an encore?  Over the summer, she finished 18th in a field of 327 of the best U15 girls in the country, missing the match play finals by just 6 pins.

Katie Robb, Senior, Kingsway
One of the strongest performers in the state for a couple of years, averaging 198 & 201 the last two, Robb really made everyone take notice at individual states, posting 717-670 and a fourth place finish. Showed well at Junior Gold, missing the cut by just 86 pins and besting hundreds of older girls.

Rhianna Smith, Senior, Hopatcong/Mt. Olive
There's no doubt Smith is one of New Jersey's best.  A fluid lefty with strong mechanics, she's made the individual stepladder twice (2015 & 2016), and averaged 197 last season with a handful of 700s, not to mention an excellent tournament track record in non-HS events.

Amanda Shelters, Junior, Brick Memorial
Has already forged a fine career, averaging over 200 and being part of a state championship team, but Shelters really proved her tournament chops at Junior Gold, making the U20 cut after averaging over 186 over 4 days on 4 different sport patterns. Memorial lost 3 more seniors this year; don't be surprised to see Shelters take a huge leap forward.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

aaaand we're back.

Today marks the beginning of tryouts and practices for the entirety of New Jersey high school bowling, and I, for one, am pretty excited.

We have 14 high school bowlers returning who made one of my all-state teams, as well as 29 who were listed as honorable mentions.  A bunch of kids were impressive in tournaments over the off-season: Junior Bowlers Tour (New Jersey and Pennsylvania), Central Jersey Junior Girls Challenge, and the national Junior Gold finals in Cleveland back in July.  There's a world of talent here.

I sent out an email blast to every coach in my address book looking to pick up some information about this year's squads, and to make some suggestions & requests for the future, and I've heard back from several (thanks!), but I'll renew the request here and include parents: new bowlers I might not know about, anyone who's made a major improvement, coaching changes, transfers - anything that can help make my rankings fair and accurate is appreciated.  Just as importantly, I want to encourage every single league, conference and division to have a public-facing standings sheet as well as reporting results to nj.com.  Many do, and they're awesome (especially those on leaguesecretary.com), but there are several major bowling conferences that don't have, for instance, player averages available. No other sport seems to conspire to hide their results quite like bowling.  Let's end that.

Another thing that's been hard to find is a listing of in-season tournaments.  I assume that these are communicated between coaches and ADs throughout the state, and that's fine, but a public listing would be great.  The Shore Conference affiliated tournaments are listed on their site (link), so any coaches looking for a tournament should check it out. And any tournament results sent along to me would be great, too.

Anyway, I've been trying to collect as much information as possible before the season starts for real on December 2, working on preseason all-state teams, a list of returning stars, a sampling of up & coming bowlers (including some impact freshmen) and a reasonable guess at a preseason top 20 for both boys and girls.  These will be posted over the next few weeks.

But first, I need to talk about Greg.

My original intention when starting this blog was to remain mostly anonymous, but my own technical stupidity put my name on everything from the jump.  As a result, many, if not most, of you know that my kid bowls for Warren Hills.  We at Warren Hills lost a big part of our family when longtime coach Greg Rottengen passed away in August.  He was 74.

I'd known Greg for about 25 years - first as a competitor when we bowled against each other in leagues in the 90s, then as a coach when he worked a bit with my daughter during Saturday morning leagues at Oakwood Lanes, and finally as a highly successful coach at the high school level.  I didn't know that he taught science for 35 years, or that he had been in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. It was always all about the bowling.

After the age of 50 (and a lifetime of bowling) Greg became a PBA member, competing in many regional and senior events, earned his way into the Morris County Bowling hall of fame with his on-lane performance.and he worked to become a silver-level USBC-certified coach.  Personally, I think the coaching was the high point.  

Decades of bowling experience, technical expertise and an extensive teaching background made him an ideal coach for the kids at Oakwood Lanes.  While Oakwood is the home of Warren Hills bowling, it's also a regional center, and the youth program draws kids from a huge area.  Over the years, Greg worked, at least a little, with kids from Warren Hills, Phillipsburg, Belvidere, Warren Tech, Hackettstown, North Warren, West Morris Central, Sparta, Morris Tech, Immaculata, Voorhees, North Hunterdon, Hunterdon Central and Mount Olive. Probably more.

His work as Warren Hills' head coach was extraordinary.  In a sport dominated by Shore Conference, GMC and Olympic Conference squads, we had this little oasis of excellence at the only bowling program in Warren County.  Greg did exactly what we all say we want from coaches - he was flexible enough to coach each bowler a little differently: laying back when necessary, getting very technical when it was warranted, laying down discipline if the situation demanded it, and being an absolute goofball when the team needed to loosen up.  Greg was named North Jersey or state coach of the year at least four times. In the process, he produced dozens of excellent bowlers, including future college bowlers, all-conference & all-area selections, and a smattering of all-staters. I'm hesitant to start listing names because I'll leave out a whole bunch, but Darren Flynn, Michele DeVries, John Mercurio, Ben & Abby Laws, Justin Walker, Jessica Yerance, Aaron Argondizzo, Elizabeth Hudock, Greg Ryback, Lauren Scholes, Mike Handley, Jenna Henderson, Bobby Collins, Sammie Pearson, Brian Duke, Ryan Stephany, Darryl Price and current seniors Eric Lawson, Avante Wilson and Katie Winch have all made their mark.  Anyway, it was always the team that mattered most, and Warren Hills won 9 sectional championships under Greg, including both the boys and girls teams the past two years, and he finally reached the mountaintop when the 2017 girls won the state Group 3 title and the Tournament of Champions.

The bowling program had a small memorial get-together before school started, and more than two dozen past, present and future Blue Streaks came together to remember Greg; even more attended the memorial at the funeral home.  He meant a lot to the program, and to the kids, and will be missed terribly.

During this most recent run of success for the Warren Hills program, Greg expressed several times how impressed he was with the sustained talent level on the team, that new freshmen kept entering the program ready to contribute, and that the younger kids just keep getting better.  He said more than once how lucky he was to be a part of a program like this.

We were even luckier to have had him.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Season in Review - Girls All-State Teams

Criteria and such are listed on the boys all-state post.

NEW JERSEY GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL BOWLING ALL-STATE TEAMS FOR 2017

FIRST TEAM

Lanasia Neal, Junior, South Plainfield
Lanasia Neal has near-perfect mechanics and is as smooth as anyone; she also has another level for tournaments.  Her 206 regular season average is great, but look at the tourneys: 2nd at North Jersey Singles, 1st at the James (675), 2nd at CJWC (657), 1st at GMC Singles (744-617).  After a decent morning at the TOC (622), she went to work, blowing out a 228-228-278=734 (highest of the afternoon) to lock down a spot in the top five.  Fearsome competitor with the talent to match.

Kamerin Peters, Freshman, Toms River North
It's hard to imagine another freshman has ever so completely dominated a high school sports season. Peters essentially tied for state high average, led her team's transformation from an also-ran to #5 in the state (and sectional champs), and lit up nearly every tournament she got near: Shore Conference singles (1st, 709), RWTI (2nd, 671), South Jersey Singles (2nd, 231 avg), South Sectionals (2nd, 697) Team States (1st, 722).  And the she went out and broke the state TOC scoring record with an unfathomable 773-730 before losing a squeaker to Aimee Sherman in the final. Amazing talent, amazing season, amazing future.

Lauren Potechin, Senior, Millburn
Under the radar as the only state-level girl in the entire SEC-Colonial, Potechin managed an excellent 209 average, 3rd highest in the state, as well as a 740 high series.  She only had three chances to compete against the girls: the Essex Individual (1st place, 671), the loaded North sectional (7th place, 626) and the State Individual TOC, where she fired 622-637 to finish 9th.

Katie Robb, Junior, Kingsway
Further evidence that an all-state bowler can come from anywhere, not just the most highly-ranked teams. Robb was worth the price of admission for any Kingsway match.  She led the Olympic conference by a lot with a 201 average, and dominated the Olympic tournament, shooting 504 through 2 games before being forced to leave early due to another commitment.  A strong 632 (7th at South sectionals) put her into the TOC, and Robb didn't miss her chance; a huge 279 single highlighted her 717-670 in qualifying and she wound up in fourth place in that amazing field.

Aimee Sherman, Senior, Jackson Memorial
Aside from wishing for more team success, the FDU-bound Sherman couldn't have asked for much more of a storybook ending to a fabulous career, which included a team state championship in 2015. She led the state in average at 215, took second at the Shore Individual (680), 5th at South Jersey Singles and 3rd at South Sectionals (688).  And in the last chapter of her time as a high school bowler she put up an incredible 750-730 to qualify second behind Peters, tossed the first perfect game in Girls TOC history, and took the state individual title. Not a bad way to go out.

Alize Stevenson, Senior, St. Mary's
Stevenson probably doesn't get the attention she deserves for such an outstanding career. She finished 2017 with a 206 average, bowling against the boys on an undermanned team.  She shot 646 at the Union County, won the North Jersey sectional with a 674, and fired 639-636 to finish 7th at the TOC, narrowly missing her third trip to the stepladder finals. On top of that, Stevenson is a lot of fun to watch, putting exceptional rotation and power on her shots.

SECOND TEAM

Jenn Ingulli, Senior, Ocean Township
The headline for Ingulli is her 208 average, 4th in New Jersey. She also finished 3rd at Monmouth, shot 615 at LB Wave, finished 9th at South Jersey Singles, finished 3rd at Central Sectionals (609), made the cut at TOC, and fired a 613 at team states, helping the #6 Spartans to a second place finish in Group II.

Michelle Dekowski, Senior, Linden
The Union-Watchung is a pretty good boys HS league; their best bowler in 2016-17 was Michelle Dekowski. The lefty completed her final season with a 207 average and a string of good tournament scores: 644 at CJWC (3rd), 622 at Wheeler (2nd), 660 at James (2nd) and a 613 for her co-ed team at Sectionals.

Julianna Forbes, Junior, Brick Township
You have to look past the 188 average; Forbes was dynamite in tournament action, including 4th at Shore Singles (604), 1st at Wheeler (631), 625 at RWTI, and 619 at CJWC. She was even better in the postseason: 4th at South Sectionals (685), 604 for #3 Brick Township at team states, and a fabulous showing at the TOC: 661-714 to qualify 4th and 715 during the stepladder, finishing 3rd in the state.

Madison Perry, Senior, Hawthorne
Aside from averaging 192 alongside her brother to lead Hawthorne to a very good season and sixth in State Group II, Perry built a strong tournament resume, winning the Passaic County (636), finishing 5th at sectionals (638) after shooting a big 660 to help her team finish 2nd at their sectionals.  Shot a strong 636 at the TOC, and finished in 13th.

Jaime Golden, Senior, Sparta
In addition to a strong regular season, averaging 197 and anchoring the Spartans boys team, Golden has a tournament distinction that no one else in NJ can match: in seven tournament series, she never failed to break 600. (To be fair, Neal only missed once, and it was 598).  630 at HWS, 605 at Wheeler (3rd), 604 at Girls sectionals, 657 at Boys sectionals, 649 at team states and 631-638 to finish 8th at TOC.  That's just impressive.

Jill Stuart, Senior, Brick Memorial
Stuart was lights out in the postseason, shooting 602 at sectionals, 619 (3rd overall) at team states, and a brilliant 673-670 to take 6th at the TOC.  Anchoring the #2 team in the state, she averaged 205 in conference play and shot 603 at Shore Singles, 634 at CJWC, and finished 8th at South Jersey Singles.

THIRD TEAM

Michelle Bello, Senior, Pennsauken

The stats say Bello averaged 182 in the regular season, but there's more than enough evidence to overrule that.  She won the Olympic tournament (612), won the Snowball tournament (4-game 888), won the incredibly deep South Sectional (731) and shot a huge 692 in the TOC first round before settling for 10th.

Jenna Henderson, senior, Warren Hills
Henderson was unquestionably the leader of the state's top team, shooting 614 at team states and performing brilliantly in the playoffs.  Earlier she had averaged 194 in Skyland matches, shot 620 at HWS, finished 5th (855 4game) at Snowball and won the individual title at CJWC (691)

Dana Henry, Senior, Ocean Township
Half of #6 OT's big two, Henry shot 600 at team states and finished the year with an average of 200. Her top tournament performances were 666 at the LB Wave tournament and a title at the deep and prestigious South Jersey Singles after beating Kamerin Peters in the final.

Kelcie Mannon, Freshman, Warren Hills
Possibly the state's second-best freshman, Mannon was in a great situation surrounded by upperclassmen on NJ's #1 team.  She came into her own late in the season, winning HWS (650) and Skyland (688) tournaments, finishing 4th at Sectionals (644) and 12th at the TOC (598-613), as well as ending up with a 195 conference average.

Samantha Salzone, Senior, Edison
Salzone averaged 189 as #8 Edison's top gun, finishing 5th at the Central Sectional (602), helping her team advance.  She shot 600 at Brick, made the cut at the state TOC with a 593, and was fantastic at the GMC singles tournament, posting 611-639 and finishing second to Neal.

Amanda Shelters, Sophomore, Brick Memorial
The leadoff bowler for the state's #3 team posted a strong 202 average, finished 5th at Brick (628), shot 602 at James and 634 at CJWC, and came in 8th at Shore Individual.  Individually, her season highlight may have been fourth at South Jersey Singles after shooting 256-216 to reach the semifinals.

HONORABLE MENTION

Emily Alvarez, Senior, South Brunswick
190 average, 10th at Sectionals (579), 4th at GMC Singles (623 in 2nd rd)
Theresa Bedaro, Sophomore, Manchester
186 average, 3rd at RWTI (671), 1st at Brick (720)
Victoria Bird, Senior, Brick Memorial
197 average, 6th at South Jersey Singles, 3rd at Shore Individual (618)
Deanna Calantoni, Senior, Woodbridge
187 average, 631 at James, 3rd at GMC Singles (598-596)
Clare Chaffer, Senior, Freehold Township
190 average, 576 at team states, 4th at Sectionals (607), 11th at TOC (588-635)
Marissa Cosentini, Freshman, Wayne Valley
188 average, 16th at Sectionals (581), 2nd at Crusader (611)
*Sarah Florence, Senior, Cedar Creek
604 in qualifying at South Jersey Singles, 8th at Sectionals (618), 15th at TOC (588 1st rd)
Madison Gibson, Senior, Howell
184 average, 2nd at Monmouth (584), 4-game 807 at Snowball, 625 at CJWC
Victoria Gray, Senior, Brick Township
189 average, 10th at Shore Singles, 1st at RWTI (693), 4th at Brick (632)
Kristen Kane, Senior, Paramus Catholic
184 average, 299-760 at Bergen County
Emily Mamunes, Senior, Northern Highlands
186 average, 6th at sectionals (635)
Laura Oliver, Senior, Central
190 average, 618 at Brick, 607 at RWTI, 6th at Sectionals (641), 4-game 823 at SJS
Sarah Orensky, Freshman, Freehold Township
190 average, 1st at Monmouth (634), 7th at Sectionals (588), 16th at TOC (593 1st rd)
Gabby Pangaro, Senior, Clifton
189 average, 2nd at Passaic County, 2nd at Sectionals (668), North Jersey Singles Champ
Sarah Pitcher, Senior, Brick Memorial
200 average, 4-game 823 at Snowball, 4-game 798 at SJS; season cut short by injury
Kiara Powell, Junior, Union
188 average, 613 at James, 629 at Union County
Danielle Quitola, Senior, Ridgefield Park
193 average, 1st at Crusader (613), 2nd at Bergen (618)
DorrieAnne Rizzo, Senior, Wallkill Valley
190 average, 569 at Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex (team 2nd)
Claudine Rosca, Senior, Wayne Valley
184 average, 18th at Sectionals (576), 17th at TOC (583 1st rd)
Caylin Ryan, Sophomore, Brick Township
195 average, 13th at Sectionals (581), 23rd at States, 12th at Shore Singles, 593 at RWTI
Rhianna Smith, Junior, Hopatcong
197 average included a pair of 700s, semifinalist at North Jersey Singles
Sara Smith, Senior, Manasquan
183 average, 9th at Sectionals (579), 20th at TOC (575), 3rd at South Jersey Singles (200 avg)
Tiffany Rose Sucero, Senior, Holy Angels
188 average, 625 at North Jersey Singles, 573 at Bergen, 589 at team states
Goldera Surles, Junior, Union Catholic
185 average, 570 in boys' sectionals, 3rd at girls' sectionals (649), 571 at TOC
Natalie Swindell, Junior, Toms River South
184 average, 605 at RWTI, 2nd at Brick (679)
Katie Winch, Junior, Warren Hills
180 average, 2nd at Skyland (656), 3rd at Snowball (4-game 872), 2nd at team states (652)