GOING FOR IT: With Madison Kubicz leading the way, the Barnegat girls team aims for the Shore Conference South B division title. (Photos by David Biggy)
The cards are stacked in his team’s favor and Barnegat girls bowling coach Jon Gordon knows it.
“With the division going back to how it was several years ago, we know this year is our time,” Gordon said, referring to the realignment that delivered Brick back to the Shore Conference South A division after several seasons in South B. “We have all our varsity bowlers returning this year and several of the other teams in our division graduated many seniors after last season. We just need to be consistent week in and week out.”
Finishing third behind Brick and Lacey last season, the Bengals are in prime condition for a run at the division title, which they have yet to win in their history as a program – Manchester or Lacey had been the routine frontrunners until Brick arrived for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Still, bowling is an unpredictable sport at times, and Barnegat’s crew must play well over time to truly call itself a title contender by the end of January.
Leading the way this season are seniors Madison Kubicz and Alexis Sugden. Kubicz led the Bengals with a 167 average last season, while Sugden had the third-highest average at 146. Alongside them are juniors Camryn White, who had the second-highest average last winter at 158, and Summer Burkle, who broke on the scene last season and averaged 137. Sophomore Taralynn Charland completed the top five from last season, averaging a 139, and bolsters the lineup again this winter. Junior Grace Watts also may have a role in any success the Bengals have for 2021-22.
“Madison and Alexis are going to lead the way,” Gordon said. “But any of the other three of our varsity starters are capable of taking us to a division title.”
The Bengals got off to a great start on Nov. 23 with an opening, 3-0 win over Donovan Catholic. Barnegat won by scores of 665-420, 718-393 and 822-401.
In the first game, Kubicz led the charge with a 185. She also paced the Bengals in the second game, firing a 193, while Charland delivered a 157. In the third game, Charland ratcheted up her game, registering a 234, while Kubicz tallied a 180 and Sugden and Burkle ended with respective scores of 153 and 152. Kubicz finished with a 558 series and Charland ended at 501.
AT THE TOP: Barnegat’s Joe Spagnola last season led the division with a 217 average and again will be one of the top bowlers in the Shore Conference South B division this winter.
As for the Barnegat boys, only two starters are back for this season, but one of them just happens to be last year’s South B division average leader, Joe Spagnola, now a senior. Last season, Spagnola averaged just over 217 and likely will be better this winter, but the only other returning starter is junior Matthew Hwang, who averaged 165 last winter. That means the rest of the Bengals have to bring up their games, especially following the graduation loss of former standout Matt Xiques.
“This year’s team is very inexperienced as it returns just two varsity bowlers and only two other bowlers from last season’s squad,” said coach Michael Palmieri. “Despite the chaos that COVID-19 is still presenting, the expectations are no less than any other season. Our goal is to compete for a division title. We have come in second several times over the past few seasons and hope to get over the hump this season, but it will be no easy task.”
The guys Palmieri is looking at to make up some of the pins lost to Xiques’ departure are junior Gabe Betancourt and sophomore Mason Rodriguez, both of whom played in plenty of matches last season, as well a junior Bennett Melillo. Besides them, sophomore Jamison Pizza and freshman A.J. Wolcott could make significant impacts as the season progresses. The rest of the squad includes senior Hector Reyes-Matos and freshman Robert Marx.
On Nov. 23, Barnegat opened its season with a 2-1 win over Donovan Catholic, capturing the first and second games by scores of 776-755 and 705-700. Spagnola led the way with a 782 series, tossing games of 225, 268 and 289. Pizza scored a pair of 137s to end with a 387 series.
In Decent Shape to Start
At Pinelands Regional, coach Paul Millar’s boys team is in slightly better shape than Jim Becker’s girls – mainly in terms of varsity experience, since the girls graduated a bunch of seniors and have a slew of new players – but both teams could be competitive in the South B standings this winter.
For the boys, the Wildcats brought back three starters from last season, including their top bowler, Ethan Edwards, who last season averaged 190. Joining him again this winter are Andrew Basile and Joe Horn, who finished last season with averages of 150 and 125, respectively. The two newcomers to the varsity squad are Quency and Mike Basile.
On Nov. 23, the Wildcats scored a 3-0 win over Lakewood, 766-485, 743-557, 669-604. Edwards led the charge with a 628 series behind games of 216, 213 and 199, while Mike Basile knocked down 162 and 165 pins during the first two games, and Horn delivered a 157 for the third game. Andrew Basile topped out at 144 in the first game.
Meanwhile, Becker’s girls may make some noise in the division after going 10-14 last winter, despite the seniors lost to graduation.
“Our team looks to once again be competitive in the division after graduating a deep senior class,” Becker said. “We are very young, loaded at the freshmen level, but we return two seniors and we will look to them to mentor the many new faces on the team.”
With Caitlyn Rodriguez and Angelina Papa the only two back from last season’s squad, the future of the program has arrived, as juniors Sherry Driscol and sophomores Marissa Acosta and Sage Targett are part of the newcomers to the team, along with freshmen Norah Maleski, Norah Pear, Jillian Becker, Olivia Shertenlieb, Alexis Sharpe, Kayla Sharpe, Kate Siino, Emily Marousis, Molly Cogar and Emma Dillon.
In their first contest of the season on Nov. 23, the Wildcats knocked off Lakewood, 2-1, winning the first two games, 529-528, 575-523, before losing the third, 521-536. Rodriguez led the way with a 450 series after recording scores of 145 and 173 during the first two games.
Southern in Rebuilding Mode
Very often, coaches love having a slew of seniors on their squads, especially when those seniors have played for several years and bring valuable experience to the alley for every match. Unfortunately, that’s a double-edged sword, because those seniors eventually leave the program and rebuilding phases are needed.
Both the Southern boys’ and girls’ teams graduated four bowlers at the end of last winter.
“We’re really rebuilding this year,” said boys coach Tony Salvatore. “We lost four seniors and have no newcomers who are seasoned bowlers. With the strength of our returning bowlers from last year, we should be in the middle of the pack. We have some raw talent.”
The Rams aren’t in terrible condition, since they had a ton of varsity bowlers last season, several of whom split time when a bowler struggled here and there. Returning this season are seniors Joe Wilkinson, who averaged 179 last winter, and Mike Minardo, a 173 bowler last season; and junior Andrew Christensen, who averaged 183 a season ago.
From there, Salvatore needs some newcomers to rise to the level of play necessary to compete in the very tough South A division. That group includes seniors Finn Olcott and Mario Addiego; juniors M.J. Pielhau, Ryan Brown, Aidan Antonio, Tyson Lloyd and Aiden Gillman; sophomores Alex Henbest and Mike Wilkinson; and freshmen Nathaniel Strong and Braeden Shaffer.
So far, the Rams are off to a slow start after losing 3-0 contests to Brick Memorial on Nov. 23 and Toms River East on Nov. 24. Against the Raiders, Southern was led by Christensen with a 509 series after he rolled games of 178 and 181, while Joe Wilkinson came in at 456 following a 189 in the third game, and Minardo, who fired a 200 against Brick Memorial the day before, delivered a 158 and 169 en route to a 454 series.
On the girls’ side, coach Ed Costa’s only returning players are senior Stephenie Giberson, who averaged 140 a season ago, and sophomore Miranda Pielhau, who had a fantastic freshman year with a 162 average. Otherwise, the Rams need some former JV bowlers and newcomers to fill in the gaps left behind by last year’s graduates.
Among those moving up in the ranks to the varsity team are seniors Louisa Ricciardi, Clara Sgnorin and Olivia Macanka, along with sophomores Mia Nolan and Mia Hart. The newcomers to the team are seniors Alyssa Grignolo and Jennifer Giberson; juniors Lyndsey Rinnier, Emily Rinnier and Ryann Kolodziej; and sophomores Katie Heyer, Allie Schmidt and Abigail Smith.
Following a 3-0 loss to Brick Memorial a day earlier, the Rams defeated Toms River East, 3-0, on Nov. 24. Macanka led the charge, tallying a 466 series with games of 156, 169 and 141, while Signorin whacked 459 pins with games of 164, 153 and 142. Pielhau finished with a 447 series following games of 151 and 173, and Lyndsey Rinnier topped out at 174 in the second game.
— David Biggy